Indigenous socio-economic values and river flows summary: A Summary of Research Results 2008 -2010
This is a summary of a CSIRO report on Indigenous socio-economic values and river flows in northern Australia, funded under the TRaCK (Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge) program.
Although environmental flow assessments and allocations have been practiced in Australia for nearly 20 years, to-date they have not effectively incorporated Indigenous values. Indigenous values associated with river systems and water tend to be poorly understood by river managers and water planners, and some are difficult to relate explicitly to particular flow patterns and to address in water allocation decisions.
The Indigenous Socio-economic Values and Rivers Project conducted research in two TRaCK focal catchments, the Fitzroy River of Western Australia and the Daly River of the Northern Territory, over three years (2008 to 2010). Working with two Indigenous communities in each catchment, the CSIRO project team combined qualitative and quantitative methods to understand the spatial and temporal pattern of resource use, its social, cultural and economic significance to local communities and their economies, and the eco-hydrological dependencies of the aquatic resources consumed by Indigenous households.
The aims of the project were to:
- Document the significance of water and river systems (including groundwater) to Indigenous communities, particularly to Indigenous belief systems and environmental philosophy
- Quantify the direct economic value derived from Indigenous use of wild resources found in, or reliant upon, rivers and wetlands
- Assess the social, cultural and economic impacts of changes to flow regime on Indigenous communities
- Collaborate with Indigenous land management agencies to develop and trial a participatory monitoring program for flow regime changes and wild resource use.
A significant effort was devoted to recording local ecological knowledge (reproduced in multiple forms including seasonal calendars), and to enhancing local capacity for environmental monitoring.