Traditional Owners planning for Climate Change

Mackay Traditional Owners, Gary Mooney and Samarla Deshong will help identify sites of cultural significance in the Mackay Whitsunday region.

Mackay Traditional Owner Gary Mooney (left) and Samarla Deshong will help identify sites of cultural significance in the Mackay Whitsunday region.

Traditional Owners (TO’s) in the Mackay and Whitsundays are planning ahead for climate change.

The TO’s are working in partnership with regional bodies to help identify local sites of cultural significance to be included in a regional Climate Action Plan, which will assess the future impact of rising sea levels and other climate risks and develop strategies for adaptation.

With changes in our climate becoming more evident, a partnership between Reef Catchments, the Tropical Indigenous Ethnobotany Centre (TIEC) and CSIRO has commenced to help capture and map sites of cultural importance as the first step. The group is working with regional Traditional Owners, including Yuwi-bara (Yuibera) elder Gary Mooney and Koinmerburra cultural advisor Samarla Deshong.

Reef Catchments Climate & Landscapes Systems Coordinator, Dr Robyn Bell, said the Cultural Heritage Mapping work was in response to more widespread planning for climate change.

“Climate affects us all and it is critical sites of traditional importance are protected. For example, a recent trip to Cape Palmerston by the group revealed that shell middens have been covered with sand due to cyclones and storm surges in recent years, and invasive grass species are altering habitats that were previously sources for fresh water, bush foods and medicines,” she said.

“Concern was raised by the Traditional Owners as to ongoing impacts of climate change on culturally significant sites.

“By working together we hope to better understand and document Traditional Owner aspirations for land and sea and to strengthen connection to country.”

Future work includes planning workshops and the development of ‘no-regret’ action plans to protect cultural values and practice. Potential future scenarios will also be explored. Outcomes from these activities will inform Reef Catchments Climate Action Plan and the Natural Resources Management Plan for the Mackay, Whitsunday and Isaac regions.

“Ultimately, this work aims to reduce climate impacts and develop adaptation options on the region’s cultural heritage and traditional food sources” Dr Bell said.

For more information contact Robyn Bell – robyn.bell@reefcatchments.com

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