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Wetlands need people: a framework for understanding and promoting Australian indigenous wetland management

Michelle L. Pyke, UWA School of Agriculture and Environment, The University of Western Australia
Sandy Toussaint, School of Social Sciences and the Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Paul G. Close, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Rebecca J Dobbs, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia
Irene Davey, Bardi Jawi Traditional Owner
Kevin J George, Bardi Jawi Rangers, Kimberley Land Council
Daniel Oades, Bardi Jawi Rangers, Kimberley Land Council
Deborah Sibosado, Bardi Jawi Oorany Rangers, Kimberley Land Council
Phillip McCarthy, Bardi Jawi Rangers, Kimberley Land Council
Cecelia Tigan, Bardi Jawi Oorany Rangers, Kimberley Land Council
Bernadette Angus (Jnr), Bardi Jawi Oorany Rangers, Kimberley Land Council
Elaine Riley, Bardi Jawi Oorany Rangers, Kimberley Land Council
Devena Cox, Nyul Nyul Rangers, Kimberley Land Council
Zynal Cox, Nyul Nyul Rangers, Kimberley Land Council
Brendan Smith, Nyul Nyul Rangers, Kimberley Land Council
Preston Cox, Nyul Nyul Rangers, Kimberley Land Council
Albert Wiggan, Nyul Nyul Rangers, Kimberley Land Council
Julian Clifton, UWA School of Agriculture and Environment, The University of Western Australia

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-10283-230343

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Abstract

Indigenous knowledge systems (IKSs) can, and do, contribute to natural resource management (NRM) in Australia and elsewhere. However, cross-cultural NRM and scientific research usually emphasizes particular components of IKSs, rather than engaging with the value of an integrated complex IKS. Focusing on two case studies of Aboriginal groups in the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia, we present a conceptual framework that represents how IKSs can manifest as a system of wetland management. The framework depicts how beliefs, knowledge, and practices are inter-related, forming a meaningful and organized approach in which indigenous Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul people historically managed, and aspire to continue managing nearby Customary Law-inherited wetlands. The framework presents a meso-scale representation of IKSs that highlights four management principles: custodianship, respectful use, active maintenance, and learning. We describe how affinities for these principles, vis-à-vis other indigenous groups, can also be discerned. Providing a visual framework tool has the potential to assist the application of IKSs to wetland management, and take account of the view that “wetlands need people,” by emphasizing the active, integrated, and reciprocal nature of these knowledge systems in place (associated with traditional lands). That indigenous people value, as well as shape, wetlands, is also considered. By interpreting the framework to support indigenous wetland management (and services to ecosystems) within active cross-cultural work, IKSs promise benefits for people and ecosystems.

Key words

collaboration; cross-cultural ecology; ecosystem stewardship; indigenous ecological knowledge; Kimberley; natural resource management; services to ecosystems; wetland management

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087