Western Australian environmental organisation Environs Kimberley is integrating local Indigenous ecological knowledge with science to better its environmental upkeep projects.

Project Officer Kylie Weatherall is involved in on-ground activities working with Indigenous rangers in Broome.

“I’ve been working on projects associated with protecting monsoon vine thickets,” Ms Weatherall said.

“We’ve been doing a lot of revegetation of monsoon vine thickets in the last few years.”

In the Kimberley, rainforests represent only 0.0001 percent of the region, but they contain a quarter of the Kimberley’s plant species.

Monsoon vine thickets make up a large ecological network that is culturally significant to Traditional Owners.

The thickets provide seasonal fruits, medicine and accessible ground water. Some even cover culturally sensitive law grounds for Traditional Owners.

The work Environs Kimberley has been doing with Indigenous rangers to maintain these networks includes basic weeding, fire management and preventing clearing of the thickets.

The organisation has also been trialling different revegetation methods as well as collecting and processing seeds to help support the development of the nurseries at the Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul ranger bases.

Ms Weatherall said one thing that is important to Environs Kimberley is engaging with Traditional Owners and the wealth of ecological knowledge they bring to the table.

“We bring the science to the table, so our work is really about working together with the rangers,” Ms Weatherall said.

“Often, we help record cultural knowledge.”

Plant Stories is one such resource created through workshopping with the Bardi Jawi Oorany (women) rangers.

The book outlines traditional knowledge about plants on Bardi Jawi country on the Dampier Peninsula.

A second edition of Plant Stories is currently in the works to increase the number of plant species recorded.

“[Plant Stories is] all about recording the cultural knowledge for those plants and getting that info out there. The book is produced for the community with a team of ecologists,” Ms Weatherall said.

“We’re very much about trying to capture the traditional knowledge.”

Ms Weatherall said putting the books together is quite time-consuming as they must consult with everyone who participates in the project workshops.

“The second book has been quite a long journey … we’ve started workshopping it with a whole group of women, not just one or two,” Ms Weatherall said.

“We’ve also worked extensively with the governing bodies as well … the Prescribed Body Corporates.”

Ms Weatherall said building trust and relationships is vital to all of Environs Kimberley’s work with Indigenous rangers.

“[Using traditional practices] keeps the culture alive, keeps people’s knowledge alive and it passes it onto other generations,” Ms Weatherall said.

“It helps maintain the biodiversity, and works well with the science, like identifying invasive species such as weeds.”

Ms Weatherall said she has seen a shift in non-Indigenous services appreciating traditional knowledge and that some organisations have begun to take on traditional ecological practices.

“[Progress] feels slow, but it’s turned that corner and people have started really to work together with Traditional Owners right across the Kimberley.”

These projects are funded by National Landcare Program and Rangelands NRM.

By Hannah Cross