A new study published in Geographical Research shows environmental management has been a tool of colonialism.
The study states indigenous connection to country provides innovations for land management policies which have been ignored by Western culture.
The study was written by lead author Samantha Muller from Flinders University, Ngarrindjeri Nation citizen and director of Indigenous Nation Building Professor Daryle Rigney and associate professor Steven Hemming from the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research.
Ms Muller said indigenous academics were looking for a new take on the governance of mainstream environmental management institutions.
“When indigenous nations become sovereign partners in environmental management, the power structures and worldviews that underlie decision-making can be productively challenged, creating new solutions to pressing environmental issues,” she said.
“One of the most significant acts of colonialism is to impose an understanding of country as something separate from humans, with decisions based on science and Western institutions,” the authors said.
The study compared examples of conservation among First Nation groups in New Zealand, North America and South Australia.
The findings showed indigenous governance had been driving solutions and strategic approaches to caring for the land in the changing climate due to their deep understanding of the landscape.
At the mouth of the Murray River in South Australia, the Ngarrindjeri Nation developed Kungun Ngarrindjeri Yunan agreements with the state government.
The agreements recognised Ngarrindjeri as sovereign partners in environmental management and enabled Ngarrindjeri to drive environmental solutions during the millennium drought, which won them the 2015 Australian Riverprize.