Traditional Owners and the Great Western Woodlands
The Traditional Owners of the Great Western Woodlands retain their knowledge of and connection to country. They have customs that have been passed down from their ancestors which they must follow in relation to the use and protection of the lands natural values such as water, plants and animals. These customs focus on principles of respect and preservation for long term sustainable use.
Changes wrought from the time of European settlement have created massive social, cultural and economic upheaval for Aboriginal people who continue to have a strong connection to their country.
Safeguarding and utilising these customary connections is vital to the protection, maintenance and management of the landscape. Western land managers and scientists are beginning to pay attention to the range of customary Indigenous practices that are likely to be critical in successfully maintaining the full diversity of natural values found in the region. The long-accumulated ecological knowledge that underpins these practices is important in understanding country.
Traditional Aboriginal land use relies on intricate ecological and geographic knowledge including the care and maintenance of rockholes and other water sources, food sources and fire management.
Exercising and adapting these traditional practices to contemporary conservation and land management requires a direct management role for Traditional Owners. From the perspective of conservation science, traditional Indigenous management can be a vital part of responding to environmental challenges.
In the Great Western Woodlands area as in other areas of Australia, Traditional Owners have expressed a desire to take on ownership of new conservation areas to be managed jointly or in conjunction with government agencies or private organisations.
Ngadju man Les Schultz is working with the broader Ngadju community to increase the understanding of conservation and land management opportunities and assist in building capacity to achieve them. Once conservation and management needs have been prioritised the Ngadju people hope to fund initiatives to achieve their goals.