Australian cities partner with Traditional Owners

Enhancing urban nature via indigenous land management in Australian cities

Urban nature areas can benefit from indigenous land management practices such as cultural burns. The Australian city councils of Adelaide, Cairns and Yarra shared how they are partnering with Traditional Owners to achieve this at a recent webinar hosted by ICLEI Oceania.

The speakers explored how councils can work together more effectively with Traditional Owners to protect and restore nature in and around urban areas. The session was introduced by Councillor Amanda Stone from the City of Yarra, who is also Chair of ICLEI’s Regional Executive Committee. She highlighted the importance of recognising the owners of the land. “We have entered the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, yet we have been causing enormous damage to our planet, we have been dismissing nature and using more resources. We need to bring nature back. Here in Australia, we are lucky to live in a land with thousands of years of transmitted knowledge through Traditional Owners about how to live in harmony with nature, how to respect the land. Learning from Traditional Owners is a gift but it is also a door to the future of more respectful relations with nature and the ancient land. So that we all have a future”.

Three stories were then shared about how the Councils of Cairns, Adelaide and the Yarra Ranges are working with traditional owners, their approach and protocols, and how these are being applied to biodiversity and NbS initiatives.

In the Cairns Regional Council, Sophie Barrett, Advisor Strategy & Sustainability, shared how the Council aims to develop a set of inclusive and culturally appropriate guidelines for Council staff, elected members and consultants to inform engagement and remuneration of Aboriginal Traditional Owner groups across the Cairns LGA.

From the City of Adelaide, Chris Butcher, Senior Sustainability Advisor (Biodiversity), and Marty Reeve, Kaurna Liaison Officer, shared their insights from work on the Adelaide Park Lands, where the Council is working with and empowering Kaurna and other First Nations People to restore historic land management practices as business as usual for native vegetation.

From the Yarra Ranges, Gary Detez, Indigenous Development Coordinator, shared how the indigenous knowledge of culture and country, skills and experience in both cultural burns and contemporary fire management practices, present a unique opportunity to reinvigorate Australia’s cultural fire knowledge to heal the land across Australia. The Firesticks Alliance is an Indigenous-led organisation that works with communities, land and fire agencies and organisations across Australia. The words from a fire stick practitioner resonated strongly: “Knowledge is the most important and safest thing you can use for building your culture back. Aboriginal peoples’ knowledge has been there for thousands of years”.

Overall, the webinar aimed to acknowledge Australia’s First Peoples as Traditional Owners and Custodians of the Land and to give respect to the Elders, past, present and emerging, and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders People.

Watch the recording of the webinar here:

ICLEI Oceania manages the Oceania chapter of the CitiesWithNature initiative. Towns and cities in the Pacific, New Zealand and Australia are invited to join the initiative and explore how to enhance greening and biodiversity in their urban areas. CitiesWithNature offers a platform for sharing and interacting with other like-minded councils – to access events, resources, case studies, best practice models and knowledge promoting the benefits of nature-based solutions in cities.