Monday, 13 December 2010

National Party wants cattle to graze in National Parks: Aboriginals want cultural flows #environment

They are back - like the Ghost of Christmas Past. Who, you ask?  The National Party are in government and throwing their weight around and, like Dicken's creation visiting Ebenezer Scrooge (that's us urban types who are to a person greenie, tree hugging types, dontcha know!), they are calling on us to repent.  We are being asked to repent and restore cattle to their 'rightful' place in national parks and forest reserves.

A lot of graziers along the Murray having been hopping mad since the declaration of the Barmah and Gunbower National Parks last year and further declarations on the New South Wales side this year. In fact, they are unhappy on two fronts: the removal of cattle and the fact that Aboriginal people have significant management responsibilities for the new national parks.  The graziers have two concerns it seems: fuel reduction and weeds.  

They claim that cattle must be allowed to graze within the parks to trample down vegetation as a form of fuel reduction in case of bushfires.  They also believe that neighbours are the ones who have most interest in keeping weeds at bay in national parks and, therefore, such people ought to have a significant role in managing the national parks along the Murray.  I see no evidence that grazing interests have any concern for the role of the original owners of the land in management of these national parks. I note the establishment of the Rivers and Red Gum Environment Alliance. Research this site well, Networkers.  You might find it differs greatly from most environmental organisations.

Grazing has been part of Australia's white settler history.  It is not unreasonable to suggest, though, that given what we now know about the impact of grazing of imported animals on Australia's fragile soils and native vegetation, if we should have the opportunity to travel back in time we would be giving serious consideration to banning the important of beef and dairy cattle; horses; goats; sheep; and camels.  

Now, there are people examining the sustainability of European forms of agriculture in conjunction with our fragile soils and our declining native vegetation.  See documents below.

The Yorta Yorta are a significant Aboriginal nation along the Murray River.  The Yorta Yorta were treated shabbily in the post-Mabo Native Title process.  They have become co-managers of the recently announced National Parks. In this way, the Brumby Labor Government in Victoria has given recognition of the strong connection of the Yorta Yorta to their traditional country.  Read the co-management details here.

The Barmah Forest is a mess.  Grazing, forest industry, and drought have ravaged it.  The big dry is over and we are taking stock. Governments have been trying to allocate water for environmental needs for quite a while; particularly under the Living Murray program.  But bringing the native forests back to life is not just a matter of turning on a tap somewhere.  The forest relies on periodic flooding.  The big Red Gums get wet feet. We tried to mimic this - but the floods needed to recede and we found the water often stayed too long. So more damage was caused.  There is so much to learn about the Australian environment.  One size certainly doesn't fit all - if it ever does anywhere.  So much is trial - and error.  Too late we listen to indigenous knowledge, it seems.

Indigenous culture has been disturbed across the continent.  Disturbance in Yorta Yorta country started in the early days of white settlement in Australia.  The Yorta Yorta are endeavouring to redress this disturbance through cultural mapping.

Aunty Denise said to me they wish there had been this resource
in place prior to the fateful Native Title case.
Things might have been very different.

Murray River Country discusses the water crisis from a unique perspective — the intimate stories of love and loss from the perspectives of Aboriginal people who know the inland rivers as their traditional country. These experiences bring a fresh narrative to contemporary water debates about living in the Murray-Darling Basin, where water is increasingly scarce, increasingly degraded, and of increasing economic value. The devastation of the Murray River demands that something fundamental change in our water philosophies if we are to open up space for dialogue that will create new possibilities for action.

Time and the Murray wait for no-one, not even the Traditional Owners of the Yorta Yorta. They are discussing the topic of Cultural Flows with the Murray Darling Basin Authority through MLDRIN (Murray and Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations). In 2007, the document below was signed.  It gives environmental NGO status to MLDRIN, and MDLRIN says:

In forming this Agreement, the parties recognise the Wiradjuri, Yorta Yorta, Taungurung
Ngarrindjeri as the Traditional Owners of Country centred on the Murray and Lower 
Darling River systems and accept that we share a responsibility to ensure that Country is 
managed and maintained to the highest standard of ecological and cultural integrity for 
the benefit of future generations.

Further reading:
14 December 2010

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