Robyn Heckenberg

Robyn Heckenberg

Robyn, a Wiradjuri woman has a strong connection to Wiradjuri/MurrayDarling Basin rivers. Robyn has worked on Indigenous community and government projects with an environmental and arts focus. She considers that this is an important time in our history to be sharing Indigenous ecological knowledge and story. She promotes working for the spiritual life of the rivers and waterways, connecting ancient knowledge and contemporary priorities for our Earth. She sees the concept of place pedagogy (learning in Country) to be a powerful way to connect to our waterways and land. Eco-theology, Aboriginal standpoint and community aspirations all inform her research.

Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Heritage Supporting Ecosystems and Communities

As a Wiradjuri woman, the author of this paper discusses the Indigenous standpoint of river connection and river resilience. In recognising the powerful cultural connection to the river that Aboriginal river people feel, the paper maps these relationships in contexts of cultural practices and Indigenous knowledges. The paper discusses how the theme of connection to the River, and its conduit of connection to Country, plays a significant role in values and beliefs around caring for the river especially concerning relationships to ecosystems, native species and the environment. The research discusses communities in the Murray Darling Basin, both on the Murray River, and also the Northern Basin, on the Warrego River. The complex relationships within ancient traditional knowledge systems, Elder’s wisdom, spirituality, and Aboriginal story-telling play an important role in contemporary creative expressions of river narratives of hope, and recovery. The elements of traditional knowledge and the wisdom of Elders through story are a lynch pin in finding ways which can support sustainable solutions for river health. They have become a characteristic of “ways of doing” for Aboriginal river people, who are also working in partnership with local government, the humanities, ecologists, and environmental science. Aspirations for protecting cultural heritage and looking after the waterways go hand in glove with river management. Further to this, the research describes ways in which Aboriginal river communities look for creative solutions which can educate the broader community on the importance of the health of the river systems into the future.

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