Traditional owners are working with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to collect valuable weather information that will help shed new light on rainfall and flow patterns in remote areas of the region.
Twenty-seven weather stations have been placed across the basin since 2016 — 15 of them on Aboriginal-owned properties.
Sandra Peckham, who lives close to the Bogan River, has one of the weather stations almost literally on her doorstep at her homeland at Dandaloo, about 100km from Dubbo.
“We saw it as a very good way to gather information,” she said. “None of the Aboriginal communities out here in the central west really get a look-in on things, so it was a great opportunity to have.”
Ms Peckham said people come to collect the information every couple of months. There is a weather station several metres from her house and a small box inside that gives out readings on everything from temperature to wind gusts.
“It’s good to see it on the screen,” she said. “You can relate it back to, like, ‘Oh that’s when we had a really good rainfall and we saw a lot of the birdlife come back at that time or we had a very bad frost there where we saw some of our native plants die off.”
Ms Peckham said the Bogan River was one of the oldest in Australia, but it was dying off.
She said weather patterns in the area were changing and it was good to be able to keep up with what was happening.
“My son is in his thirties and he’s taken an interest in it,” she said. “He loves to check the box. Even the grandkids, they go up to it and say it’s about 30 outside now, Nan.
“It’s teaching the younger ones the technology of it going on – it’s really good to see the patterns.”
MDBA acting chief economist Dr Phil Townsend said the MDBA has been working with Aboriginal people to ensure that the locations of the weather stations best served Aboriginal people’s interests.
“The weather stations are intended to provide more detailed weather information than we can obtain from the Bureau of Meteorology in remote areas,” Dr Townsend said.
“The stations record local weather conditions, including temperature, humidity, rainfall and wind.
“We will also regularly interview traditional owners as part of the ongoing study to understand how weather impacts Aboriginal people’s lives and also gain on-the-ground insights into how the weather impacts the local landscape.”
The results from the Aboriginal Weather Watchers Project will be published in the coming years.