Making sense of climate change and its impacts with Indigenous people in the Mackay Whitsunday region

Wednesday, 17 June 2015
Dr Ilisapeci Lyons
Gary Mooney

Increasing scholarship in the Indigenous field of research on climate change confirms that environmental change is impacting livelihoods on country. Despite this, climate change is not the immediate concern for many Indigenous peoples whose lives are impacted by other ongoing environmental and socio-economic concerns that are deeply embedded in a colonial history, and that frame how climate change is considered. This research, undertaken with the Yuwibara and Koinmerburra Aboriginal groups, on climate adaptation planning, adopted an Indigenous-driven process that involved: mapping sites of value and knowledge recording; discussions of climate projections and considerations of risk; and development of response strategies. Observations and semi-structured interviews were conducted throughout the research. Key considerations for the Traditional Owner groups in planning for climate adaptation were capacity building and access to country to: speak for country and strengthen their knowledge and management of country; protect connection to country and the socio-cultural fabric of the groups; and be recognised and involved in decision-making about their country as custodians. This research with Traditional Owners in the Mackay-Whitsunday highlights the importance of considering climate change within wider institutional arrangements where impacts of historical legacies of dislocation and disruption to Indigenous custodianship can also be addressed.