Stepping back to go forward

Daryna ZadvirnaAlbany Advertiser
Left to right: Elder Ezzard Flowers, Kim Scott,Minister Dawson, Elder Lester Coyne, Justin Bellanger. Back row- Luke Bayley, Stephen Hopper.
Camera IconLeft to right: Elder Ezzard Flowers, Kim Scott,Minister Dawson, Elder Lester Coyne, Justin Bellanger. Back row- Luke Bayley, Stephen Hopper. Credit: South Coast NRM

A project combining ancient ecological knowledge and Western science has been boosted by a $2.6 million grant announced by Environment Minister Stephen Dawson in Manypeaks yesterday.

The four-year project, Restoring Noongar Boodja (caring for country) combines Noongar oral histories and traditional ecological knowledge with modern scientific management.

The project will gather local Noongar groups, and other elders who grew up in the region but have been displaced, and take them back on country to document their traditional knowledge.

This knowledge will be combined with the work of The University of WA professor Stephen Hopper’s team to build a scientific framework to manage and protect natural resources in an environmentally sensitive way.

South Coast NRM chief executive Justin Bellanger said WA’s south coast was an ideal location for the project, being a globally-recognised biodiversity hotspot.

“It also comes at a time when there is a growing interest in Aboriginal practices for managing the environment, meaning the project is likely to attract international interest,” he said.

“Now we are facing a world where, despite everyone’s best efforts, our natural assets of water, soils, air and plants and wildlife are challenged and are all in need of help to protect them and keep them healthy.

“Lake Pleasant View, an Aboriginal-owned and managed property with significant cultural and biological significance, will become a focus site for this project and will become an environmental landmark to experience and study this new approach.”

Elder Ezzard Flowers, spokesman for the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Group, said the project meant a lot to his community.

“We are passing on to our young people the knowledge from countless generations over 60,000 years, when humans and nature worked in harmony,” she said.

“By working together with modern science, our next generation will be able to take the best from both to build and protect our precious natural resources in uncertain times.”

Mr Bellanger said the project represented a “gamechanging approach”, which could revolutionise natural resource management.

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