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  • My name is Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart.

  • My country is Malfiyin, near the Daly River in the Northern Territory.

  • This story is about our rivers and our bush tucker.

  • (DIDGERIDOO MUSIC)

  • Collecting bush tucker is important

  • -- it gets people out on country, it is healthy for us and makes us feel good.

  • Collecting bush tucker heals our spirit and teaches young people about country and culture.

  • (GUITAR MUSIC)

  • Christina Yambeing - "Dad used to tell us stories, about Dreamtime stories or

  • "about our country, you know. Mum used to tell us stories about her dreaming.

  • "We used to take that fish net over to the creek when there were lots of fish."

  • The Mabo decision in 1992 means that our customary laws are now recognized.

  • This means that our use of land and water is protected.

  • But when decisions about water are being made, we are often not included.

  • Those rivers, creeks and billabongs are important to us.

  • We rely on those places for food and medicines.

  • Other people say they need water for their businesses such as farming and cattle,

  • but no one has really talked to us about how important those water places

  • are for hunting and fishing practices.

  • Dr Jackson - "Well the National Water Policy of 2004, the National Water Initiative its called,

  • "for the first time in Australia's history recognised the importance of water

  • "to Aboriginal societies.

  • "And it actually urges Australian State governments to include Aboriginal people in water planning,

  • "to understand their water use requirements

  • "and to consider the impacts of water use decisions

  • "on their societies, their economies and their culture."

  • (DRUM MUSIC)

  • Dr Jackson - "We haven't had a lot of information about how people use aquatic environments.

  • "We haven't had a lot of information about the value of those environments to Aboriginal people

  • "and there's been very little understanding of the way in which

  • "changes to water use and water management in a wider Australia may affect Aboriginal people."

  • So CSIRO, as part of the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge Research Program,

  • looked at how changing water uses may affect my community in the Daly,

  • as well as communities in the Fitzroy River in Western Australia.

  • Pippa Featherston - "So you went somewhere Saturday?"

  • Emma Woodward - "So it's really about building relationships and trust from the beginning

  • "and that drive came from the indigenous communities themselves."

  • Eighty-two households were interviewed eight times a year.

  • People were asked about when they went fishing or hunting,

  • where they went, and what they caught.

  • Benigna Ngulfundi - "Barramundi, Pig nosed Turtle, Catfish."

  • The researchers also wanted to know about country and the seasons.

  • Biddy Lindsay - "That one Christmas come. This one year round for eating.

  • "This one now they're drying up.

  • "This one year round like that one in the billabong."

  • Seasonal calendars were made with four different language groups.

  • They are based on Aboriginal knowledge of the plants and animals harvested

  • throughout the year.

  • Emma -"Where do you get that one from Biddy?"

  • This information was collected to get a better picture

  • of how and when food is collected during the year,

  • and how we read the different signs of animals and plants.

  • Sue - "In the middle of the dry season, we've got

  • "people going out and catching 5 turtles at a time."

  • Miriam-Rose Baumann - "Non-indigenous people have four seasons. We,

  • "the people have many seasons

  • "and the best time is the Dry Season for when you go and hunt and forage for these

  • "things that are in the water, or billabongs or the creeks."

  • My calendar - the 'Ngan'gi Seasons' - was the first.

  • It follows the life stages of Wurr mui, the local spear Grass.

  • Patricia McTaggart - "From the time like, from the new shoot up to

  • "when it's died off and like burnt.

  • "All in between that cycle of the spear grass, we hunt like,

  • "certain different things to eat."

  • When the Wurr mui stalks start to die and turn a reddish colour,

  • Agurri, the black rock kangaroo sings the wind from the east.

  • The wind brings the dragonfly who tells you it's a good time for Freshwater Prawn and barramundi.

  • Patricia - "When the wind from that direction coming,

  • "then we know it's time to go and look for barramundi.

  • "As soon as that happens we can feel it telling us Dry Seasons here, you know.

  • "And we see signs like dragonflies coming

  • "the same time as the wind and its telling us that

  • "the Dry Season is here and there's going to be a bit more fish in the river."

  • As the billabong levels drop during the Dry Season, plants can be collected along the edges.

  • These include Minimindi, the Waterlily; Miwulngini, the Lotus Lily

  • and Midigu, the Water Chestnut.

  • This is also the time for Mibuymadi, the Bush Banana and Migerum, the Native Peanut.

  • Biddy - "...and you brush them up, finish, take them out and eat them like nut, peanut. Yeah.

  • "This one, medicine for pneumonia and all that."

  • Red Kapok flowers tell us that Freshwater Crocodiles have laid their eggs

  • - we can go collect them.

  • Bark peeling off the Ghost Gums

  • tells us Bull Sharks are fat and ready to be hunted in the rivers.

  • And with less water,

  • it is much easier to collect mussels and crabs from the banks of billabongs and creeks.

  • (COCKATOO IN FLIGHT SCREECHING)

  • Miriam-Rose - "...and it's not just the things that live in the water.

  • "There are other things that are growing by the banks. Stuff like berries and plums and bulbs

  • "and it's because of, you know, after the rain

  • "there's other things that are growing around the river banks as well and in the billabongs."

  • By the Late Dry Season, most of our hunting trips are to the billabongs.

  • As the water levels drop, the muddy banks are exposed.

  • Plenty of Long-necked Turtles can be found hibernating under the mud.

  • We use digging sticks to find them.

  • Long-necked Turtles are our favourite food.

  • They make up over half of the food we collect in the Daly River.

  • Researchers compared the value of our bush foods, such as turtle,

  • to the foods we buy from the store.

  • If farming were to change the way the river flows there could be less animals to hunt,

  • and it would cost our families a lot more to buy food.

  • During the Wet Season the Daly floods and the river is too high to fish.

  • Benigna - "And I like going fishing for anything like bream, barramundi, pig nose turtle, catfish.

  • "What other one? Shark! I like eating shark."

  • Pippa - "So you went fishing yesterday?" "Yes."

  • Pippa - "Catch anything?" "Five turtle and my other cousin's sister,

  • "she caught eight bream and she brought it back for her family to eat them."

  • At the end of the Wet, when the river is high, fruit like Mimeli, the black currant

  • and Miwisamuy, the white currant, are collected. Echidna and Rock Python are hunted.

  • Emma - "So we found that people are sharing resources on a very broad scale.

  • "So you have family groups going out hunting and fishing.

  • "They're bringing some back to their own household,

  • "but a lot is being distributed very widely, not only within the community

  • "but with communities further upstream and down stream.

  • "And there's also a bit of resource exchange going on.

  • "So some communities might be able to get magpie goose eggs, for example,

  • "and they're flying them up to another community who's exchanging them with turtle to another community.

  • "So this has really important repercussions and implications for water research managers.

  • "They need to be thinking about

  • "making planning or the implications of water allocation decisions

  • "on not just a specific community, but on a much broader geographic scale."

  • If food currently caught from the river and floodplains

  • had to be replaced with supermarket food

  • there would be less money for us to spend on other things.

  • Dr Jackson - "Very often the water needs that Aboriginal groups have

  • "can be quite different to other groups.

  • "So if groups like recreational fishers, and conservation groups

  • "and farmers are the ones that,

  • "are only, their interests are only reflected in water use decision,

  • "then we will see that Aboriginal people miss out

  • "and we may see some quite harmful decisions

  • "that aren't in the best interests of Aboriginal people."

  • Emma - "So will you take some of this and put it out

  • "in the billabong where there's salvinia?" "Yes."

  • With these results researchers can work out which are the most valuable plants and animals,

  • and the important places for hunting and fishing.

  • They can look at how changes in using water may upset things.

  • If farmers take too much water during the dry season,

  • this could be a problem for important fish, such as black bream and barramundi.

  • These two fish are important to Aboriginal people.

  • Nearly 1000 black bream and barramundi were caught during the time

  • when the researchers were doing the surveys.

  • This information is important for water planning because development of water resources

  • -- for example, building dams for farms -- can be a big problem for the river flows.

  • We now have information

  • water planners can use to work out how changes in water use may affect Aboriginal people.

  • Emma - "First activities that we did with people in the communities was river use mapping."

  • It provides a strong and important base for decisions about water use.

  • Miriam-Rose - "The river is like the heart, the creeks and the springs that run into it

  • "are like the veins in our body.

  • "And that feeds the river, especially in the Dry Season

  • "and of course the springs come from the aquifer.

  • "If people drain the aquifer out to farm and all that,

  • "it will kill the river and kill the things that are marine life in the water as well."

  • Dr Jackson - "If farming or other water use does increase in the Daly River catchment

  • "for example over the next 10 or 20 years,

  • "we'll be able to look back at this data

  • "and water planners will be able to look back at this information and say

  • ""well 10 years ago this was how people were using the country.

  • "And they were collecting these kinds of resources in these kinds of quantities".

  • "If those patterns are still evident 10 or 20 years time,

  • "then we will know that water use activity has not had any detrimental impact on Aboriginal people.

  • "So it's a very important baseline for helping decision makers in the future

  • "be confident that the water decisions they have made, that the water use plans they have,

  • "the water use allocation regimes

  • "are indeed reflecting the interests and needs