pic1_TEKApril2016NQ Dry Tropics proudly works in partnership with regional Traditional Owner groups to build their capacity to care for their country. This includes ensuring that traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is preserved and recorded in a dedicated cultural database, so that it can be shared with future generations and continue to play an important role in protecting our natural resources.

TEK includes types of knowledge about traditional methods of subsistence, such as plants, animals and ecosystems; tools and techniques for hunting or agriculture; navigation, and climate.

NQ Dry Tropics recently held training workshops for Wulgurukaba and Gudjal Traditional Owners to learn how to use recording equipment and the cultural database. The workshops were part of NQ Dry Tropics’ Engaging Traditional Owners project, funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme. This project aims to support Traditional Owners to more effectively participate in natural resource management (NRM) planning and activities, and ensure that TEK is considered and incorporated.  

Troy Mallie, of Environmental Systems Solutions who developed the cultural database for NQ Dry Tropics, taught workshop participants how to store data in a variety of formats. They learnt how to easily map cultural sites using Google Earth™, and also how to add photos, video, sound recordings and documents. Troy also demonstrated how different sections of the database store a wide range of knowledge on native plants and animals, language, dances, artworks, oral histories, songs and events.

Donna Turner, NQ Dry Tropics’ Manager, Strategy and Partnerships, said that the free, secure database is available for Traditional Owner groups and individuals to store data in their password protected accounts.

“This data is not available to NQ Dry Tropics or government funders. The intellectual property of the data resides with the person who entered the information, or with the group if done on the Traditional Owner group’s behalf.

“The Engaging Traditional Owners project has TEK equipment for groups to use to record data, including two Samsung Galaxy tablets in hard cases and an interview kit with video camera, tripod, lapel mic, sound recorder and carry case,” she said

NQ Dry Tropics Senior Project Officer, Sharon Marks, said that investing in TEK delivers more effective natural resource management results by contributing toward a holistic understanding of country that benefits both the Traditional Owner group and the broader community.

“All participants enjoyed the workshops and expressed the desire for more Traditional Owners to be trained to use the system, but also for clear protocols to be developed to guide groups on how to use the database,” she said.

Discussions with the Traditional Owner Management Group and individual Traditional Owner members, identified future potential activities for recording TEK including:

  • mapping cultural heritage sites on country, such as burial sites, rock art sites, and fish traps;  
  • capturing oral history, such as stories from Elders;
  • capturing oral history about sites already recorded by GIS;
  • mapping, photographing, sampling and recording oral narratives about plants for bush tucker and medicinal purposes,
  • collating existing work by other historians;  
  • recording and filming oral narratives of sea country stories that add onto blood line connections; and  
  • capturing discussions on spirituality and use of language.

Main photos:

  1. Wulgurukaba Traditional Owners taking gps readings at Stick Lease on Magnetic Island
  2. Members of Gudjal adding practice photos and sites to the cultural database