The Weekly Advertiser Horsham
Drought research for climate change
Developing knowledge about how Wimmera and southern Mallee people responded during the millennium drought is at the core of a project assessing community resilience in the face of climate change.
A new Wimmera-southern Mallee project called ‘Climate-eyes’ will capture residents’ observations and stories of surviving and adapting in tough climatic times.
The study, led by Wimmera Development Association, hopes to capture stories about what people saw, what changes they made and how adaptation helped the region forge ahead.
The study is based on the region’s experiences of severe climatic fluctuations and how communities became ‘experts’ on climate change at a time Australia’s general population was grasping to understand the concept.
It will explore a variety of experiences, from people who perfected low-water gardening and no-till farming, to turning dry lake beds into concert venues and coming up with the best ways to deal with a mental-health crises.
Association executive director Chris Sounness said regional communities had rich stories to tell about drought, flood, fire, frost and even plagues – especially from the decade when the region ran ‘within a whisker’ of going completely dry.
“A classic drought story was the hairdressers who sought lessons in how to listen to and refer distressed clients for support – this marked a turning point in regional understanding and accepting the reality of mental illness,” he said.
“We also recycled household water from washing machines and baths to continue producing vegetables and learned the value of shade.
“There was also the awareness of injuries that came with carting heavy buckets or playing sport on hard ovals – all things we can share with other communities that have not faced such water shortages.”
Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, Federation University Australia, Wimmera Primary Care Partnership, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Department of Families, Fairness and Housing are also supporting
the project. Participants can share their thoughts in a survey open to all residents via wda.surveysparrow.com/s/living-and-learningin-drought/tt-69d05e.
A project team is also seeking any official reports or recollections people have written or recorded during droughts, fires or floods and any photographs that highlight activities and lessons from the times.
People can email information to climateeyes@ gmail.com to form an archive of drought reports and information to share with other researchers.
The project will lead to the production of ‘Little Green Book on changing with the Climate’, which will highlight lessons, tips and ideas for surviving and thriving in tough climatic times.