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The challenge

​Cultural Indicators for Drought Resilience

As our nation's first scientists, Indigenous Australians can tell us much about water and land and the impacts of dry conditions like drought. We're engaging with Indigenous communities to understand what drought resilience means to them and how their cultural knowledge and insights could better inform drought strategies.

Communities are impacted when water resources dry up. ©  Matt Palmer, Unsplash

Our response

Engaging with Indigenous communities

Indigenous cultural knowledge and environmental insight built over many generations is increasingly being recognised as key to managing Australia's environment and ongoing stewardship of Country and must be part of the story that describes the nation's resilience to drought.

The Cultural Indicators for Drought Resilience project aims to give Indigenous communities a voice in drought decision-making and planning. It allows the sharing of benefits and the application of local knowledge to tackle Australia's major challenges. Our co-designed approach will benefit each community and contribute to our national understanding.

Keep Country strong against drought

Cultural knowledge may tell us about potential indicators of drought and what we can do to improve resilience. It also helps us identify areas with challenges and a lack of drought resilience.

Country is full of stories, and Indigenous peoples have carried these cultural narratives for millennia. Their evolving knowledge, accumulated over thousands of years through direct contact with the environment, can tell us a lot about the future.

Alternative approaches like storytelling will play a key role in building cultural knowledge. For example, the arrival of local waterbirds may be a relevant drought resilience indicator of timing. As these birds are a migratory species, they will be connected to other locations and can potentially provide a bigger picture view and connection across the region and potentially nationally.

The results

Shared benefits from research

Shared benefits of the project include a greater voice in regional water planning, preserving and helping to pass on cultural knowledge for future generations. ©  Chris Gresham-Britt, Unsplash

We plan to develop research case studies with Indigenous communities in drought-affected regions of New South Wales and Queensland.

CSIRO's Drought Resilience Mission is leading this research in partnership with First Nations peoples, the University of Canberra, and James Cook University.

Shared benefits include a greater voice in regional water planning, preserving and helping to pass on cultural knowledge to future generations. Together, it will help build a baseline for understanding cultural indicators for drought resilience in these regions.

If we successfully expand this work to other Indigenous communities around Australia, we hope to see it applied to other challenges such as health and housing.

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