Cultural landscape mapping is crucial in formally identifying cultural sites and practices in the South West Region and in communicating to stakeholders that cultural protection is not just about protecting individual sites. Sites need to be considered in a landscape context, as part of greater Noongar Boodja (land) area.
Cultural landscape mapping is an important way to communicate how Noongars used, and continue to use, the land, to increase cultural awareness and understanding. Ultimately, this form of cultural mapping is designed to incorporate Aboriginal aspirations into NRM planning and make recommendations as to how these landscapes should be managed. Mapping of significant cultural sites can also assist in obtaining funding for on-ground works to preserve and enhance sites for traditional use and environmental values.
Toolibin, Dongolocking and Tarin Rock
The cultural landscape mapping in this area aimed to identify values, threats and actions that would form a basis for Noongar community-led NRM projects. The first step was to understand more about Noongar cultural heritage values in the area including places, pathways, plants, animals, landscape features, knowledge, activities, spirituality, and community. We then considered what some of the threats may be to these values.
The threats included degraded landscapes, over-clearing, salinity, invasive species, restricted access to land, lack of community capacity, social problems, economic challenges, social and cultural dislocation, community governance, and community engagement. The third and most important step, as well as the most difficult, was to develop actions that could be undertaken to reduce some of the threats and enhance/protect some of the values.
While we acknowledge the limitations of NRM programs and understand that we cannot hope to eliminate all of these threats nor protect all values, there are great opportunities to take positive actions to advance the community’s aims, in the form of projects and partnerships which may be funded through NRM.
Cultural mapping of the Leschenault Estuary and its tributaries has been undertaken by Applied Archaeology Australia (AAA) in conjunction with the local Noongar community and facilitated by SWCC. The project aims to identify and improve our understanding of the cultural significance of catchment and its importance in the livelihood, social structure and environmental practices of traditional custodians, in order to maintain ecology and sustainability of the natural environment. The project is focused on developing management recommendations to help align community goals with achievable NRM outcomes.
Vasse-Wonnerup and Preston River
Previously, SWCC has undertaken a cultural mapping project with the Wardandi people, whose land stretches from Capel to Augusta. This project identified and mapped areas of cultural significance and uncovered cultural artifacts used by the Wardandi people over thousands of years.
The Dowark Foundation was commissioned to undertake the project, in partnership with SWCC, and assist in the consultation process. The Foundation includes Traditional Owners and Custodians who have maintained continual links to the traditional lands of the Wardandi People.
Archaeological and anthropological sites in the Vasse-Wonnerup and Preston River Catchments, including the Sabina River Fish Traps, Abba and Preston Rivers, have been investigated as part of the Cultural Mapping project. A number of site visits, as well as consultations and workshops were held to determine the traditional uses of these sites. In visiting these sites with local Aboriginal groups, Dowark Foundation and AAA were able to identify significant Aboriginal sites and put forward recommendations for their preservation. This included weed eradication, revegetation, rubbish removal and the erection of signage to increase awareness in the community of the cultural significance of these sites.
A Cultural Mapping Report was developed, with input from the local Traditional Owners, to formalise the information gathered and demonstrate to government agencies and NRM bodies how Nyungar people used, and continue to use, local waterways in their traditional, cultural practices. The Report has assisted in guiding current work in the Vasse-Wonnerup, along the Abba River, which was identified as a priority by the local community. The Report contains culturally sensitive information and is therefore not available for viewing.
The process of cultural mapping has been captured in the short video documentary We are Wardandi. The video includes interviews with the Traditional Owners of the Geographe Bay region, the Wardandi People, and tells the story of their link to the land, highlighting the strong connection between environmental and cultural protection.