Our Future || Traditional knowledge ignored in drought

Traditional knowledge ignored in drought

Water security has once again become a political football. Most recently, in the Murray-Darling Basin no environmental water is being returned to the river, and there are more delays in plans to restore the rivers' health.

NSW, Victoria and South Australia are at loggerheads over water supply and irrigation demands and, at a Federal level, the political parties argue about who is in charge. It's a disaster for the rivers.

In among all the shouting, the voices of Aboriginal people are stifled.

Traditional knowledge and observation of the driest inhabited continent, held by Indigenous people for thousands of generations, is not even considered.

As the temperature rises and country gets drier, there is no doubt that these are signs of climate change. What has been predicted is happening right now. Currently, we are in another "worst all-time drought" following the recent Millennium drought and water security is a problem for the whole nation. Aboriginal people in Alice Springs are saying extreme heat is threatening their survival and central Australian outstations are running out of water.

In the water debate, Aboriginal people want to share what we know. Instead, decisions made about us are made without us. Traditional knowledge isn't part of the way Australia mitigates and adapts to climate change or manages water.

Where there have been positive initiatives, the effects of policy change and inconsistent funding have prevented Aboriginal people contributing on our own terms.

For more than three decades, the Barkandji people who take their name from the Baarka river, known as the Darling, have watched a once healthy river system deteriorate. Drought and irrigation from upstream have impacted water flows resulting in shortages of drinking water, drying rivers and the deaths of millions of fish.

To try to resolve these problems, not one, but two independent expert panels were set up by the Coalition and by Labor, without any Aboriginal members.

Aboriginal people are only seen as storytellers of myth and legend but the culture of science needs to change to allow traditional knowledge and observation to be part of the science.

Aboriginal people have methodologies adapted to lore and custom and the ultimate success of this is survival. We are still here. Listen to us.

Bradley Moggridge, is a Murri man from the Kamilaroi nation, Aboriginal water expert and PhD candidate at the University of Canberra.