Aboriginal perspective breathes new life into swamps
07 June 2021
The traditional and scientific values of the Fleurieu’s freshwater swamps are being brought together in a new project instigated by a local Aboriginal enterprise.
Launched in late May at the Yundi Nature Conservancy, the Aboriginal Knowledge and Values for Fleurieu Swamps project was implemented by the Kula-Tind-Jeri enterprise, led by State Aboriginal Heritage Committee Chair Mark Koolmatrie, and supported by a Grassroots Grant from the Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board.
While the scientific and agricultural values of the Fleurieu’s swamps – storing water, reducing flooding and supporting pest-controlling wildlife - are well researched, little is known about the Aboriginal values of these now rare ecosystems, says Mr Koolmatrie.
He said the project will enable Warki, Ramindjeri and Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal people to re-engage with Fleurieu Swamps, starting a process of re-learning and sharing Aboriginal knowledge and values to encourage more people to restore and conserve Fleurieu Swamps.
Yundi Nature Conservancy manager John Fargher says there is an opportunity to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge into the contemporary understanding and management of natural and cultural landscapes.
“Aboriginal values are an integral and useful part of regenerative agriculture,” he said.
“They store water in the landscape, form a fresh water refuge in drought years, and reduce downstream flooding. They support insects and birds that reduce pests in pastures and crops. They also capture and store carbon in the landscape.”
Charcoal and pollen studies suggest Aborigines deliberately burned Fleurieu Swamps between 4000 and 8000 years ago. Fleurieu Swamps support a large range of reeds, rushes and sedges that provide food, especially in spring and early summer. Early European settlers described Aboriginal people making string from swamp rushes. They said Aborigines first split the rushes and then plaited this material into string and ropes for “fishing lines and other things”. String was used to make nets for catching ducks. Aboriginal people also used swamp reeds to make woven mats. Other important food plants such as wattle trees for seeds and gum were found on the swamp edge. Tea trees, acacia gum and herbs such as native pennyroyal and slender mint were valued as medicinal plants, and the many birds, fish and mammals in and around swamps were a valued source of meat and eggs.
For details on each of these values, visit our Aboriginal Partnerships webpage.
Recipients of the 2021 round of Grassroots Grants will be announced in late July by the Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board. The grants support groups and individuals across the Hills and Fleurieu region to sustainably manage their local landscapes.
Photo: Nicole Bennett (Team Leader, Partnerships and Engagement, Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board) with project initiator Mark Koolmatrie