Knowledge Brokering Project

Walking in Country for Land Management, Planning and Intergenerational Transfer of Knowledge – Waanyi Garawa Case Study

In conjunction with CSIRO and supported by the National Environmental Science Program of the Australian Government

Survey of ‘Walks on Country’

Aboriginal people have returned to “Walking on Country” to revive and renew critical values of this time immemorial practice, lost or under stress in contemporary life. A number of events of various size and duration have been conducted across central and northern Australia over the past 25 years and were the subject of research by the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA) to survey the variety of incentives and purposes for walking on country today. The research reveals a range of motivations for these events, including fostering connection to country, land management, health promotion, juvenile corrections, intergenerational teaching and other cultural reasons. The research found that a range of qualities inherent to the immersive experience of walking in country are strong motivators for Aboriginal people’s involvement. Furthermore, there is evidence of positive cross-sectoral outcomes associated with walking events which point to Walking in Country as a potentially powerful vehicle by which many pressing social issues in remote Aboriginal communities can be effectively addressed.

A Project to Explore the Potential of Walking on Country

Through 2018 and 2019, as a follow-on part of the project, the NAILSMA Waanyi and Garawa partnership will undertake a participatory action-research project to explore the potential of walking in country for Waanyi and Garawa specific Land Management-based aspirations. The project will:

  • Assist people to address their concerns and responsibilities re 'orphan country',
  • Explore modes of being in country - (extended walks/base camp with day walks/walks with specific objectives eg. fire or site visits/men’s, women's walks etc),
  • Seek ways to effectively involve women, the elderly and infirm, as well as children,
  • Stress traditional values such as using language, correct relationships to people/country, sustenance from the bush.

Quantifying Cross Sectoral Benefits

Preliminary research indicates that a diverse range of objectives can be met through walks in country. Outcomes appear to extend far beyond the targeted area however, and the research will attempt to define and quantify these cross-sectoral benefits. Where health benefits are suspected, (eg exercise, diet and lower stress) the NAILSMA and Aboriginal participants will measure and monitor the impacts of walks.

Walking for Land Management

NAILSMA and Waanyi Garawa Rangers have been working together to explore the value of Walking-in-Country as an effective platform for land observation and management. Walking and working on foot can offer a richly nuanced approach to moving through and caring for land. Walkers see more, hear and smell more. Fine details such as tracks and scat are more likely to be found. Endangered skillsets can be re-energised. Walking ensures that Traditional Owners’ expertise and primary aspirations are at the fore of land management decisions.

Walks will seek to:

  • Identify and develop future Rangers and leadership;
  • Teach "two toolbox" knowledge sets in country;
  • Collaborate with ecologists to describe the specific qualities of land management works (especially burning) that are conducted on foot;
  • Use I-tracker technology to improve natural resource map resolution and thus enable better land management planning and actions.
  • Create a sense of the 'rightness' of walking in country - that this is a good, natural and desirable thing to do
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