‘To just be here’: Aboriginal relationships to, and management of, freshwater at Bummiera, North Stradbroke Island

01st June 2012

Water is essential for life and an integral part of every environment. Today, as water becomes scarcer across the world, conflicts about ownership and management are surfacing with increasing frequency. Underlying these conflicts are complex constructions of the ‘meaning of water’. Aboriginal people have high stakes in water management decisions due to their social, cultural and spiritual relationships with water; however, relatively little is known about the traditional ecological knowledge of freshwater in Australia in comparison to land and sea. This means that little traditional ecological knowledge is sought or incorporated into mainstream management of freshwater.

This thesis explores Aboriginal relationships to a freshwater lake, Bummiera (Brown Lake) on North Stradbroke Island, southeastern Queensland. Bummiera is a significant place to the Gorenpul-Dandrabin people and especially the women for whom the lake has particular meaning. Relationships with the lake provide insights into a web of meanings linking water to ideas of creation and creator beings, ancestors, health, education and the importance of social and cultural activities for maintaining these relationships established through the Law and handed down in the Dreaming. The data demonstrate that Aboriginal traditional ecological knowledge of freshwater offers alternative perspectives on human-water relationships, challenging mainstream approaches to water management.

Lily Moult
‘To just be here’: Aboriginal relationships to, and management of, freshwater at Bummiera, North Stradbroke Island
June 2012
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Thesis Abstracts
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