Traditional owners and other conservationists have come together to produce the first ‘two-way’ map of the Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust (belonging to Anmatyerr, Warlpiri and Luritja speakers) in the Northern Territory. The canvas map combines Indigenous and western knowledge to facilitate communication and decision-making across the culturally and ecologically significant land.
The base layer of the map was produced during a one-week workshop in May, facilitated by Kim Mahood, Australian author and artist. Among more than 30 contributors were representatives of four Indigenous estate groups (Waturlpunyu, Karrinyarra, Yuntarrju and Mala), as well as land managers and ecologists from Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC). The workshop marked the first year of an agreement between traditional owners, the Central Land Council (CLC) and AWC to collaborate on land management, scientific research and cultural exchange at the land trust.
During the seven-day workshop, a topographic base map of Ngalurrtju was projected and painted onto a large canvas with the traditional owners , who then added representations of landscape features, wildlife and tjukurrpa (Dreaming) stories and significant sites. Records of threatened and culturally significant animals and plants are also being added to the map. The map has since been used as the focal point in meetings and during activity planning.
Steve Eldridge, AWC Operations Manager at Ngalurrtju, said it is a privilege to be involved in the two-way mapping project. Steve believes the map will be valuable in deepening relationships and the successful management of Country.
“We’re coming from two different points of view, but traditional and western information is crucial for managing Ngalurrtju,” Steve explained. “The two-way map captures a knowledge exchange whereby Traditional Owners are sharing significant stories and land management information from their perspective, while we’re providing geological and ecological history and western techniques for animal monitoring and weed/land management.”
“The map is used during meetings and events as a pictorial tool that ensures everyone is on the same page. And it’s already proving to be valuable.”
As a living document, the map will be added to as more information about Ngalurrtju is gathered, for example through surveys for threatened species. Future workshops will also see contributors incorporate vegetation layers and identified weeds. It will also be used as a tool for discussing and planning prescribed burning actions.
The traditional owners are enthusiastic about the partnership and the opportunities it will provide.
“We are excited to be working together with AWC to look after our country, working two ways,” traditional owner Terence Abbott said.
“While restoring this patch of country back to good health and managing it for conservation, we’re also learning so much from traditional owners and seeing the land from their perspective,” Steve added.
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