Changes to Country and Culture, Changes to Climate: strengthening institutions for Indigenous resilience and adaptation

Adaptation Research Grants Program
Jessica Weir
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
Year Started: 

Abstract from final report:

The roles of Indigenous people in climate change adaptation are little understood. Current research highlights the contribution of Indigenous knowledge to climate change monitoring and observation, the role of community organisations in developing adaptive capacity, environmental justice and regimes for the participation of Indigenous people in abatement and climate change economies. What has not featured prominently in climate change adaptation literature is how Indigenous groups interact with the socioinstitutional structures to assert their knowledges and participate in climate change adaptation activities.

The evidence of rising temperatures, increasing frequency of extreme weather events including flooding and cyclone activity that is present on Indigenous held lands throughout Australia brings attention to Indigenous people in climate change discourse. However, the remote location of many Indigenous communities and the severe disadvantage suffered by Indigenous people in Australian society has meant that climate change and vulnerability have become a common coupling in describing Indigenous peoples’ engagement in recent literature. Questions of how Indigenous communities make decisions about how they want to respond to new risks arising from rapid shifts in climate and the socio-institutional environment in which this occurs, are yet to be fully explored or understood. The risks and uncertainties of climate change create new impetus to investigate the ways in which Indigenous communities respond to climatic changes on their traditional lands, redirecting attention and resources to Indigenous knowledge systems and perspectives. There are also new social and institutional changes that have been introduced by the retrospective recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights under Australian law and the regime established under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). This research project aims to bring understanding to the socio-institutional framework for decision-making on Indigenous held lands that impact on climate change adaptation and has been undertaken with the support from two Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate (RNTBCs) from the Kimberley and Cape York: the Karajarri Traditional Lands Association Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC (KTLA) based in Bidyadanga, Western Australia and Abm Elgoring Ambung Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC (Abm Elgoring Ambung) based in Kowanyama, Queensland.

Learn more at the AIATSIS research project page
View the final report