Wiltma Nargun Lahan: Walking on Wagiman Land

A 13-year research partnership between Wagiman Traditional Owners and scientists from the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) consortium and the NT Government was recently celebrated at a special event on traditional Wagiman country in the upper Daly River, NT.

Project leader Professor Michael Douglas from The University of Western Australia and Charles Darwin University explains that the research partnership continues to investigate the relationship between fish and river flows in the Daly River (Guwardagun) to support regional water planning and allocation.

“The Daly River Fish and Flows project is one of the longest running research partnerships in the region,” Professor Douglas said.

“Starting in 2005, it was only meant to be a three-year project. We all quickly realised that the research findings as well as the partnership itself were so valuable that we’ve found ways to keep it going.”

Some of those ways include support from the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme (NESP) and its predecessor, the National Environmental Research Programme.

The event was a chance for both Traditional Owners and scientists to reflect on the wide range of scientific and social benefits that have resulted from the partnership, as well as share updates on the latest research findings.

Wagiman Traditional Owner Mona Liddy says the partnership and project have helped her fulfil personal aspirations.

“Being a partner in the Daly Fish and Flows project provided me with personal skills and resources to complete my degree at Curtin University,” she explains. “I did an evaluation of the project for my University studies, and a poster as part of the degree. It also helped me secure employment with the Australian government in Canberra.”

Scientific benefits from the partnership include a deeper shared understanding of the Daly River through integrating Indigenous ecological knowledge with scientific knowledge (such as through the production of the Wagiman Fish poster), while social benefits include the empowerment of Traditional Owners through being back on country and opportunities for employment and training.

Traditional Owners and rangers from neighbouring Wardaman and Malak Malak country were also vital partners in this research and came to share in the celebration. Some of the presentations from the event can be seen here, the TRaCK project’s key findings can be found here and current NESP research on the Daly River here and listen to an interview about the event with ABC’s NT Country Hour here.

Daly River Fish & Flows

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