Environmental stewardship in Walbunja land and sea Country

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

For several decades, members of the Walbanja community have worked at strengthening their capacity to influence the development and environmental management decisions across their land, freshwater and sea territories. Located along the NSW South Coast, the lands and seas for which the Walbanja are caretakers have been heavily transformed by settler colonial processes since early periods of invasion. Today, they are facing increasing development pressures notably from urban expansion, tourism, commercial fisheries and a general lack of understanding of Country by non-Indigenous peoples.  

The devastating bushfires of 2019/2020 that deeply scarred Walbanja Country also led to a growing awareness in the settler population of the value of Indigenous knowledge and land management practices  (especially cultural burning) to prevent such disasters. Despite this increased awareness, genuine understanding in the wider settler population of how these management practices are intricately connected to First Nations standpoints, philosophies and aspirations is extremely limited. Moreover, the extent to which the public understands the need to significantly transform its way of relating to, and engaging with, the lands, waters, seas and the non-humans is also unclear. 

This seminar will discuss our collaborative action-research, which is aimed at supporting and making Walbanja practices, philosophies, and connections to Country visible, and looks at how they should inform development across their territories. 

Dr Annick Thomassin is the primary investigator of the Seachange: Aboriginal marine pathways to social inclusion, a grassroots research-action project developed in collaboration with Mogo and Batemans Bay Local Aboriginal Land Councils. This project aims at co-developing new research methodologies combining biological and cultural knowledge and data. Annick has over 16-year experience in the field of anthropology, political ecology and political economy working across a range of topics including co-management of natural resources, social exclusion policies and Indigenous-driven development.