Bradley Moggridge, Kamilaroi hydrogeologist
WHEN BRADLEY MOGGRIDGE looks at a watercourse he sees things others in his field don’t – which prompts him to ask questions his colleagues might not.
Moggridge, 45, is a hydrogeologist and member of the Kamilaroi people, one of the four largest Indigenous nations in Australia. Kamilaroi traditional lands cover a large expanse of northern New South Wales and extend into Queensland. That areas includes many significant rivers, including part of the Murray-darling system.
Moggridge’s researchs explores Kamilaroi approaches to water management and integrating that knowledge with formalised science.indigenous and scientific traditions can enrich each other, he says, but only if traditional custodians are heard. “An old living culture in the driest inhabited continent on Earth doesn’t have a say in water management,” he notes regretfully. Though water-management policies might be based on research and evidence, their application is influenced by irrigators, miners and developers. Indigenous voices are largely absent.
“What I’m trying to do is build a body of evidence to try to demonstrate this kind of knowledge can inform water management,” Moggridge says. Part of that process involves quantifying ancient lore, or “putting a number on a set of values” – a difficult task. But there are many indigenous practices that could provide immediate benefits as sustainable management.
Many traditional rites and activities, for instance, are triggered by water-related phenomena, such as fish spawning or plants flowering. These offer acute insights into the health of river and groundwater systems.
Other indigenous practices could help balance economic and environmental interests. “If you see a living scar tree, for instance, that’s something of deep spiritual significance to my mob,” Moggridge explains. “If there’s no surface water around, that tree is tapping into the water table. That would be a good place to put a development buffer, so the tree is protected but the pressure on the water resource is also reduced.”