Lead researcher Dr Lisa Petheram of ANU (and formerly RIEL), along with RIEL’s Dr Natasha Stacey and the NT Government’s Aquaculture Manager Dr Ann Fleming, discuss an NCCARF-funded report on a remote Arnhem Land community’s preferred adaptation strategies to climate change in the lead up to the NCCARF research portfolio launch at Parliament House.
Giant clam from Goulburn Island, Arnhem Land
Titled ‘Indigenous women’s preferences for climate change adaptation and aquaculture development to build capacity in the Northern Territory’, the report will be published to be included in a broader NCCARF portfolio being presented at Parliament House in Canberra tomorrow morning. Primarily a result of action research, conversations and workshops with Indigenous women of the small and remote South Goulburn Island community of Warruwi, the report focuses on investigating the community’s resilience and resolve in the face of impending climate change.
“First we were trying to find out what the women knew about climate change and their understandings of it,” Lisa says of the NCCARF-funded research. “Then we talked about ways they think climate change might change their communities and then ways they want to adapt to that change.”
Warruwi is identified as a community particularly threatened by climate change because of a few interlinked reasons. First, a portion of the community’s customary diet or ‘bush foods’ are fished, hunted and gathered from coastal ecosystems threatened by climate change. Second, if the balance of these coastal ecosystems is upended, then dependence on external access (for delivery of expensive supplementary food and other resources and services) may increase to compensate for locally-sourced food shortages. Meanwhile dependence on external access (as one possible adaptation strategy) may be compromised if access to the island is obstructed by the evermore frequent, unpredictable and severe weather events expected from climate change. In other words, without appropriate climate change adaptation strategies in place, life in Warruwi could become distinctly more difficult for those who know it as home.
“It was important to work with the women of Warruwi because they’re underrepresented in this sort of research, but also because they play an important role in food collection,” explains Ann, adding that although some men were interviewed to ensure the project wasn’t missing out on important information, “women are often the ones making healthy food choices for communities.”
In workshops and interviews with the women, Lisa enlisted a range of participatory and visual techniques. These included board games, videos and iBooks.
“We used participatory and visual techniques to help engage the women and also to encourage visualisation of the future among the women,” says Petheram. “It was a good way to get the women reflecting on issues in a different way than they were used to, which was very pertinent for the purposes of the research.”
The research found the women of Warruwi preferred the development of aquaculture in the region, especially to farm local species including oysters, sea cucumbers and giant clams.
“Community-based low-tech aquaculture development on Goulburn Island may help adaptation to climate change by expanding livelihood options and enhancing collection and local consumption of bushfoods,” says Natasha. “However there is a broader message here too – this research highlights the need for greater recognition and incorporation of Indigenous worldviews in viewing the future and planning for climate change adaptation.”
Ann agrees: “This research has identified a number of important lessons for the Northern Territory Indigenous Fisheries and Aquaculture policies and programs currently working in Warruwi. In particular, to improve communication and relationship-building between the government and Indigenous communities; valuing and using traditional knowledge with western science in aquaculture planning and development processes.”
The report is available on the NCCARF site here »
For more images of beautiful South Goulburn Island check out Lisa's photos in RIEL's Facebook album here »
‘Indigenous women’s preferences for climate change adaptation and aquaculture development to build capacity in the Northern Territory’ was a joint project between National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), Charles Darwin University (CDU), Australian National University (ANU) and the Northern Territory Government. The report’s authors include lead researcher Dr Lisa Petheram of ANU (and formerly CDU’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, or RIEL) along with RIEL’s Dr Natasha Stacey, NT Government’s Manager for Aquaculture Dr Ann Fleming, and Warruwi Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) coordinator Anne Perry.