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Direct seeding: An appropriate technology for the regeneration of degraded Aboriginal lands

Penberthy, M. (1991) Direct seeding: An appropriate technology for the regeneration of degraded Aboriginal lands. In: Seminar on appropriate technology for remote communities, 28 August.

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Vegetation management is not a new concept to many Aboriginal people. Traditional vegetation management practices such as patch burning required a thorough understanding of the ecology of vegetation communities, vegetation succession, and the associated fauna. Burning was not carried out indiscriminately but rather, informed decisions were mage in response to the vegetation type, season and the time since the last burning (Walsh 1989). It has even been said that the traditional Australian landscape was an Aboriginal artefact, maintained in its pristine form by conscious Aboriginal management (Coombs 1989).

However, with European contact and the establishment of permanent Aboriginal settlements, the pattern of vegetation use by Aboriginal people living in remote settlements in the arid and semi-arid regions of Australia has undoubtedly changed.

Permanent settlements of Aboriginal people have brought about an increase in the people-pressure exerted on the land and vegetation surrounding those settlements. Whereas in the times before European contact people would move on when their impact on the local vegetation and fauna became detrimental to the environment and themselves, the advent of permanent settlements with regular supplies of food and water have provided very strong incentives for Aboriginal people to remain in a degraded environment, even though the environmental impact of a concentrated population on a relatively small area is clearly severe.

The practice of living a community lifestyle that degrades the local vegetation and subsequently creates health problems for the members of that community is of course not unique to Aboriginal communities. It is a problem that faces not only other users of the arid and semi-arid lands of Australia but most other communities in the world today. Nevertheless, the link between community health and the vegetation status of the surrounding environment is much more direct in remote Aboriginal commumtIes than in other communities in the arid and semi-arid regions of Australia.

Aboriginal people living in remote commUnIties in the arid and semi-arid regions of Australia often have a high dependance on local resources for food and firewood (Walsh 1989). Furthermore, Aboriginal people also spend a great deal of time outside their houses and are therefore very susceptable to dust borne diseases. In a significant report upon the health and lifestyle of Aboriginal people in Central Australia, it was observed that 80% of Aboriginal people spent 80% of their time outside the house in their back yards (Nganampa Health Council Inc. et. al 1987). The people of remote Aboriginal settlements thus experience a much greater degree of ill-health and discomfort than other people in arid and semi-arid Australia as result of vegetation denudation.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
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