Among Aboriginal Australians, there is a strong relationship between an individual’s health, and the health of their community, their culture and their country. Given this ‘healthy people, healthy country’ relationship, any attempt to consider the impact of climate change on an individual’s health needs to consider the broader suite of impacts on their country, as well as on their community and the strength of their cultural practice more generally.

This project is carried out through a partnership with APN Cape York, which represents four clan groups from the Wik and Kugu people, whose traditional lands lie south of the community of Aurukun on the west Cape York Peninsula. Many of the Wik and Kugu people now live primarily in Aurukun in order to access basic services – but there is a growing interest to live back ‘on country’ in outstations for at least part of the year.

So far the project has undertaken two trips to film Wik and Kugu traditional owners going back to country during the dry season of 2012. The interview process has been developed in partnership with Wik and Kugu people, via the APN steering committee and Traditional Knowledge Recording Project. The interviews offer a rare insight into Wik and Kugu people’s connection with their country, their memory of what it used to be like, and how these changes, if any, relate to their perception of their own well-being.

Elsewhere in Australia, there is a robust body of research showing that Indigenous communities that have maintained their traditional knowledge and practices on country are more resilient and are better able to adapt to environmental change, including to extreme climate events. Our goal is to show whether this cultural practice and knowledge of country still remains with these Wik and Kugu Elders. If this is the case, then it would make sense that climate adaptation policies for this region should encourage the return to living and working back out on country, and the re-investment in families returning to live for some of the year on their outstations, where the connection to country can continue to be strengthened.

Click here for publications.

Click here for videos from the on country work.

Share |
Warning: This website may include images or names of people who are now deceased.