Indigenous Ecological Knowledge

Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) is a term you might have heard of but not know what it means.

For thousands of years Aboriginal people survived in the Australian landscape relying on their intricate knowledge of the land and its plants and animals. Tracking and hunting, digging soakages and maintaining surface waters were just some of the ways that people survived the harsh desert environment and in turn developed important knowledge about ecological processes.

Traditional fire management practices stimulate new growth for preferred animal species and increase the abundance of favoured bush medicine and bush tucker plants. These practices are bound up with Aboriginal culture and spirituality and offer critical insights increasingly appreciated to be invaluable to the way we manage the environment now. But this priceless knowledge is under threat for a whole host of reasons and once gone can never be retrieved.

In an effort to preserve some of this environmental knowledge the CLC has given priority to facilitating and documenting these practices and insights so that they can continue to be available to future generations.

As part of a three-year CLC project funded through the Caring for our Country program, Aboriginal people have received training in recording older relatives on visits to traditional country, and the CLC has supported intergenerational country visits which take young and old people back to important cultural sites or traditional harvest areas so that elders can tell stories for places and pass on important IEK. In some of the IEK projects traditional knowledge has been combined with Western scientific methods to develop new approaches to manage some of the more contemporary threats to biodiversity that desert landscapes face today.

All of the DVDs, books and images produced as part of the CLC IEK project have gone back to the communities involved in the project so that this knowledge remains a vital part of everyday culture. Copies of the documents are also stored securely at the CLC to allow people with the right permissions to access this information in the future.