Aboriginal knowledge and connection

Tyronne and Wally Bell, along with Adam Shipp looking out over the Yass River. Photo Richard Snashall.

“Wirlankarra yanama. Yurlu nyinku mirda yurndarirda”

“Go with a clear, open and accepting spirit and the country will not treat you badly”

Source: http://indigiquotes.atsinj.com.au/

We pay our respects to the traditional Aboriginal people of this country, and acknowledge Aboriginal people, past, present and emerging, as the original natural resources managers of this land. Aboriginal communities have a spiritual and customary living relationship with water in all its forms, through creation stories, use of water as a resource, and knowledge about sharing and conserving water. Aboriginal people have a holistic view to land, water and culture and see them as one, not in isolation of each other. At Rivers of Carbon we try to develop strong and meaningful relationships with Aboriginal people so that we can share our knowledge, combine our strengths, and together, care for the land and water that sustains us.

Within the Rivers of Carbon team we prioritise personal relationships with local Aboriginal people living and working in our region. It is to these people that we look to for knowledgeable advice, culturally appropriate communication, and wisdom about who we need to talk to learn about areas of sacred significance. We also support Aboriginal people and businesses whenever we can, and look for practical, economic and emotional ways we can enable Aboriginal knowledge and voices can be heard throughout our work. As Rivers of Carbon continues to grow we are committing to providing more opportunities for Aboriginal voices and enterprise throughout all our activities. Some of the ways we will do this include:

Source: Our Water, Our Country. Artist: Krystal Hurst.
  • Identifying Aboriginal communities in each of our regions and, wherever possible, facilitating their involvement, perspectives and input into projects.
  • Following and respecting local protocols – how Aboriginal people on their Country do business.
  • Protecting Intellectual Property, the Traditional Owners will always own their knowledge.
  • Incorporating Aboriginal language, place names, knowledge and connections as key parts of every project.
  • Undertaking projects wherever possible that protect or restore areas of Aboriginal significance (for example, the Old Blacks Camp project in Yass)
  • Following the principal of Free, Prior Informed Consent re under UNDRIP  Article 19
  • Ensuring we follow AIATSIS ethical research guidelines.
  • Seeking permissions and permits when working on Aboriginal land.
  • Engaging with Aboriginal communities through existing relationships so that trust and respect are the basis of all interactions.
  • Ensuring any Rivers of Carbon event/activity includes a Welcome or Acknowledgement to Country provided by Aboriginal people wherever possible.
  • Inviting Aboriginal people as speakers in our workshops, not just providing the Welcome or Acknowledgement to Country.
  • Employing Aboriginal people and businesses wherever possible (catering, accommodation, facilitation).
  • Providing opportunities for Aboriginal people to participate in workshops and training with subsidised fees.
  • Being open to learning, updating and improving our recognition and incorporation of Aboriginal knowledge and perspectives across all our activities.

Learning from Aboriginal people

We are fortunate to be guided in our efforts to genuinely engage with Aboriginal people by our friends Wally Bell, Aaron Chatfield, Adam Shipp and Bradley Moggridge.  Bradley led the former New South Wales Aboriginal Water Initiative team. This team did great work across New South Wales, and it was a sad day that saw their funding cut and the initiative disbanded. We are fortunate, however, to have access to the resources this team developed, and the Our Water Our Country Guide provided here as a free downloadable document, is one we highly recommend you explore to learn more about Aboriginal people, communities and their involvement in water management decision making. This film gives a snapshot of the guide.

Our Water, Our Country

This resource is an information manual for Aboriginal people and communities about the water reform process, designed to help communities make the most of these opportunities, including access to water for social, cultural and economic purposes, and a greater say in how water is used in general. This will help our people to meet their cultural responsibilities and protect Country, and it will benefit Australians as a whole through fairer distribution of resources, a healthier natural environment and a stronger, richer culture.

Download Guide

Bradley and his colleagues continue to do great work and, most recently, in partnership with the University of Melbourne’s Indigenous Knowledge Department, they have developed resources sharing Aboriginal knowledge and insight across three themes – Fire, Astronomy and Water. The Water theme provides highly relevant, accessible information and activities we can all be using in our waterway management work.

Rivers of Carbon Aboriginal connections:

We are currently working across a region that includes three main Aboriginal groups, and we have provided a brief summary of each of these. If you click through on the links below you will find more information about the richness these Aboriginal groups bring to our work.

We are gradually building relationships with Aboriginal communities in our new regions, and hope to share more of their knowledge as these relationships strengthen and grow. We know that relationships take time, so we are not rushing to ‘tick a box’ called ‘Aboriginal consultation’, as we have seen the damage this does when people, not just from Aboriginal groups, feel used, rather than genuinely engaged. We want to develop lasting relationships, so Antia, Lori, Mary, and myself are prioritising meaningful Aboriginal engagement, with trusted relationships as the bedrock upon which this is built.

Source: http://www.indigenousinstyle.com.au/

Rivers of Carbon has been working in Ngunawal country since we began in 2012. The Ngunawal people are the Indigenous Australian inhabitants whose traditional lands encompass much of the area now occupied by the city of Canberra and the surrounding Australian Capital Territory.   In 2015, a couple of years into our project, we developed a series of films with Ngunawal brothers Wally and Tyronne Bell, along with Adam Shipp, a Wiradjuri man, to share their cultural connection, knowledge and stories. The stories they tell clearly demonstrate the spiritual, cultural, economic and environmental connections Aboriginal people have to country, and we feel privileged that Wally, Tyronne and Adam feel our work furthers their desire to see our rivers and riparian lands better managed for multiple benefits.

Ngunawal River Connections
Rivers of Carbon – Breadalbane
Rivers of Carbon – Murrumbidgee
Rivers of Carbon – Burra Bush Banks and Biodiversity
Rivers of Carbon – Yass River Linkages

Wally Bell welcoming us to Ngunawal country. Photo Siwan Lovett

The Ngarigo people are the traditional custodians of the majority of the region we now know as the Snowy Monaro, with our work in the Upper Murrumbidgee running through this beautiful country. Archaeological surveys reveal a long and rich cultural history, with significant sites throughout the region. The Monaro was heavily impacted by colonisation resulting in many Aboriginal people leaving the area.  Despite this, Ngarigo people maintain strong spiritual and cultural connections to the high country and today are increasingly more involved in the management of this region.

Ngarigo River Connections
Rivers of Carbon – Murrumbidgee
Rivers of Carbon – Burra Bush Banks and Biodiversity

Upper Murrumbidgee River. Photo credit: Antia Brademann.

Gundungurra country extends from the Upper Blue Mountains, to the south west through the Jamison and Burragorang Valleys towards Goulburn. Two major language groups were within the Goulburn Mulwaree region at the time of European contact; the Gandangara to the north of Goulburn and the Ngunawal to the south. It is likely that these tribal boundaries incorporated a number of distinct aboriginal communities with their own dialects, who were probably linked by kinship networks, common beliefs, ceremonies and customs.

Gundungurra River Connections
Rivers of Carbon – Source Water Linkages
Rivers of Carbon – Mulwaree
Rivers of Carbon – Goulburn

Restoration site at 'Australind' in the Gundungurra region. Photo credit: Richard Snashall.

Another really great initiative is the Welcome to Country app which was created by Aboriginal company Weetianna Street Media with the intent of education people in the Traditional Owner’s culture and heritage protocols right across Australia. It uses GPS data to work out where you are in relation to the country you are entering.

Aboriginal businesses we work with

Wally BellNgunawal
Buru Ngunawal Corporation
Adam ShippWiradjuri
Yurbay Consulting
Alfie WalkerWiradjuri
Pejar Aboriginal Local Land Council

Goulburn Mulwaree Deputy Mayor
Pejar Facebook page
Bradley MoggridgeKamilaroi
University of Canberra
Bradley's LinkedIn


Krystal HurstWorimi
Gillawarra Art