A team from a current ARC-funded GES project on local knowledge and uses of environmental weeds recently assembled in Kununurra, far northwest Australia, to gain an indigenous perspective on weeds and their uses. The project compares local people’s views of “weeds” across four case studies in four countries around the Indian Ocean – India, South Africa, Madagascar, and Australia.
GES academics Priya Rangan and Christian Kull are collaborating with Charlie Shackleton(Rhodes University, South Africa) and Ramesh Kannan (ATREE, India), supported by Tom Bach (doctoral student on our previous ARC grant) and Pat Lowe (Kimberley-based author and environmentalist) .
The team was greeted by daily temperatures of 40 degrees celsius under blue skies in a small town built as a service centre for the Ord River irrigation project. This part of the country is characterised by vast savanna landscapes with red ochre outcrops, lush billabong oases, and bulging boab (baobab) trees.
Tom Boach introduced to the group the challenges and logistics of fieldwork in the region, building on his ten months of work with Aboriginal rangers. Pat Lowe of Broome, co-author of a masterful monograph on baobabs worldwide, brought us her wisdom as well. Through Boach, Lowe, and Rangan's connections, and with the facilitation of the Mirriwong Language Centre, the project team spoke with Aboriginal elders about the project and sought their advice on how best to conduct it.