Bradley Mog­gridge, Kami­laroi hy­dro­ge­ol­o­gist

Cosmos - - Spectrum - — AN­DREW MASTER­SON

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.”

Aus­tralian Catholic Univer­sity

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