Student researcher

Jane Urquhart Research Leader

Socio-cultural and ethnographic research with Indigenous land-owners – the Nyangumarta Aboriginal community (Pilbara, NW WA) will identify if their knowledge and practices of anthropogenic burning of country is gendered. Specifically, Nyangumarta women’s knowledge and practices will be ascertained to support the Nyangumarta community re-implement a favourable fire regime and appropriate practices for the environmental management of their Indigenous Protected Area. Located in the Great Sandy Desert where fire, inter-cycling with variable rainfall, is the key driver of desert ecology, Nyangumarta people aim to burn country to sustain their cultural resources in conjunction with environmental imperatives to protect and conserve biodiversity. In response to the consequential impacts of significant social and ecological change (as a result of settler colonisation), Nyangumarta fire ecology and relationships with country will be examined in relation to contemporary gender relations, pre-colonial practices and current conservation initiatives (led by increasing wildfire activity, biodiversity loss and climate change concerns). Nyangumarta people seek the empowerment of their successful native title determination and a post-native title livelihood opportunity through the environmental stewardship of their Indigenous Protected Area, which is reliant on funding agreements with Commonwealth Government agencies. In these environmentally-orientated transactions, this research seeks to analyse the dynamics of transformations occurring in power and knowledge, authority and practice to understand how the aspirations of Nyangumarta people to ‘look after country’ fare in the inter-exchange between burning country as a right of ownership and its integration with national and global directives of environmental governance.