Indigenous insight into water management

INFORMATIVE: Dr Colin Pardoe talked about his archaeology work across the Murray-Darling Basin finding Indigenous settlements.

INFORMATIVE: Dr Colin Pardoe talked about his archaeology work across the Murray-Darling Basin finding Indigenous settlements.

LEARNING more about the lives of Indigenous tribes might point the way to better environmental outcomes, according to archaeologist and bio-anthropologist Colin Pardoe. 

In a talk delivered to audiences in Cohuna recently, Dr Pardoe talked about his work throughout the Murray-Darling Basin discovering and cataloging what he referred to as Indigenous villages.

Mapping these sites could provide important clues to how to manage environmental water and other environmental outcomes, Dr Pardoe said.

"Barapa villages are the ecological hotspots," he said.

Dr Pardoe said that the clue was finding clusters of cooking mounds - or middens, as they're sometimes known - to figure out where the best hunting and water supplies were.

"We only have to find slightly greasy dark grey dirt [on an old cooking mound] - as soon as you've done that you can say okay, I'm on a mound. They define a place that people go back to," he said.

Dr Pardoe focused his talk on his work around Pollack Swamp, to the north of Barham, where around 150 mounds have been located.

"They still had the same property demands [as modern people] - water fronts, closest to fishing spots, and fewer neighbours," he said.

Dr Pardoe added that water allocation modeling across the Murray-Darling Basin had sometimes been at odds with what the archaeological evidence has shown was traditionally the most effective way to manage water for the environment.

"Traditional residence patterning demonstrates that planned water allocation does not achieve modeled ecological results," he said.

Dr Pardoe added that traditional knowledge "has something to tell us about the future".

The talk was facilitated by the Cohuna Neighbourhood House and organised by Cohuna resident Di Peace, who said that she was very happy with the level of interest the talk garnered.

"We're very thrilled with the number that turned up because it was a quick phone call the week before [which led to the talk being organised]," she said.

"He does a talk here about once every 12 months, and we're very fortunate to have such a wonderful and renowned anthropologist and archaeologist here. He'd spend more [time] here if he could but he's been working on the New South Wales side."

Dr Pardoe, who originated from Canada, first came to Cohuna over 20 years ago after he heard about the Cohuna skull, and has since been heavily involved in the region.

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