Consultation with indigenous communities

Sharing environmental management information with the indigenous people of the Alligator Rivers Region

Indigenous people in the Alligator Rivers Region have a strong affiliation with the land and all that belongs in it, and have a strong cultural obligation to managing their country in a sustainable way. In recognition, much of SSD’s work focuses on environmental issues that are important to the owners of the land affected by uranium mining and we then share the results of that research with the indigenous community.

Indigenous people sharing Bindjarrang (eeltail catfish)

Indigenous people sharing Bindjarrang (eeltail catfish)
(Photo: B. Ryan)

SSD has a special obligation to the traditional indigenous owners and other people in the region to communicate the research findings because they are the legal title holders and will have to live with any long-term consequences of uranium mining.

Communicating with indigenous communities

SSD keeps the traditional owners and other indigenous communities informed about our work being undertaken in a number of ways:

  • through meetings, briefings and regular formal and informal personal contact between senior SSD staff, traditional owners and the senior managers of local indigenous organisations;
  • through the Community Liaison Officer keeping the Traditional owners informed on a daily basis;
  • collaborative research work in the region;
  • training and employment opportunities within SSD;
  • through plain English reports and printed material, audio and video tapes with special attention to the appropriate use of language identify traditional foods;
  • school based education programs.
Local indigenous people and SSD staff sharing knowledge of the land and animals - collecting water and sediment samples at Cannon Hill in the Alligator Rivers Region

Local indigenous people and SSD staff sharing
knowledge of the land and animals – collecting water
and sediment samples at Cannon Hill in the Alligator
Rivers Region

Indigenous people are employed on SSD research and monitoring projects helping SSD staff become more familiar with the environmental concerns of indigenous people and enabling sharing of knowledge that indigenous people have accumulated over years of managing and living in their environment.

We also work closely with the local indigenous people to identify traditional foods collected in some parts of the Alligator Rivers Region and study how they are prepared and eaten. This allows SSD to measure the radioactive content of the food eaten by local people. Some of the foods analysed include magpie geese, fish, file snake, goanna, mussels, waterlily, pig, buffalo and long neck turtle. Research into fruit and yams is also underway.

SSD staff work closely with local indigenous people as they go about the gathering and preparation of bush foods. Knowing what type of foods are eaten, in what quantity and what part of the fruit or animal is consumed is very important to understanding what radiation dose people could get from the foods they consume.

Indigenous people and SSD staff sharing knowledge of the land and animals - collecting fish samples at Sandy Billabong in Kakadu National Park

Indigenous people and SSD staff sharing knowledge
of the land and animals - collecting fish samples at
Sandy Billabong in Kakadu National Park

Different organs in animals bioaccumulate, or store, radioactive substances in different amounts. It is therefore important to understand what part of the animal is eaten. The cooking process may also have a bearing on the level of radionuclides present. For example, the dust that sticks to food cooked in ash or on coals may pass on a higher dose than food eaten raw. To help determine whether it is the food or the preparation, SSD conducts radiological assessment before and after the food is prepared.

More information about communication with local indigenous people is available from SSD's Community Liaison Officer at the Jabiru Field Station (tel: 08 8979 9773).

More information about SSD’s communications activities can be found in Supervising Scientist annual reports.