Mulgana Traditional Owner and Geraldton artist chairs national climate action conference

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Geoff VivianMidwest Times
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Bianca McNeair addresses the Cairns "Gathering" of scientists and traditional owners in a panel discussion. L-R: Damian Morgan-Bulled, Hilda Mosby, Samarla Deshong, Bianca McNeair.
Camera IconBianca McNeair addresses the Cairns "Gathering" of scientists and traditional owners in a panel discussion. L-R: Damian Morgan-Bulled, Hilda Mosby, Samarla Deshong, Bianca McNeair. Credit: Supplied

A Geraldton artist and Indigenous ranger co-ordinator is helping steer a joint effort between traditional owners and scientists to enhance the First People-led response to climate change.

Bianca McNeair has been co-chairing the steering committee and last week was among more than 120 traditional owners representing more than 40 different First Peoples groups, who met for five days with scientists in Cairns.

Ms McNeair said they convened the People’s Gathering on Climate Change so traditional owners and scientists could share knowledge and co-design and develop adaptation and mitigation strategies.

“The gathering has provided a critical space for traditional owner groups to share their experiences and discuss pathways forward to help their communities adapt,” she said.

Ms McNeair acknowledged an encouraging level of support for ranger programs in recent years.

But now that we’re able to use some really clear scientific data and break down the language barriers with scientists as well, we’re really able to target and put forward what our priorities are.

“But now that we’re able to use some really clear scientific data and break down the language barriers with scientists as well, we’re really able to target and put forward what our priorities are,” she said.

“And (we can) work with scientists developing what’s important to Aboriginal people in those communities and what adaptation processes we see as our priorities.”

She said they had now produced “tangible and useful” educational materials for participants to take back to their communities.

Traditional Owners and climate scientists on an "on Country" field trip to the Great Barrier Reef as part of the Gathering to discuss common challenges, share knowledge and climate adaptation strategies.
Camera IconTraditional Owners and climate scientists on an "on Country" field trip to the Great Barrier Reef as part of the Gathering to discuss common challenges, share knowledge and climate adaptation strategies. Credit: Supplied

“These products explain climate change and hazards in the face of extreme and accelerating events affecting Country,” she said.

“The hope is that they will help communities put in place effective and tailored climate change adaptation pathways.”

A CSIRO spokeswoman said conversations over the five days aimed to provide communities with the tools to respond to climate change-induced events such as marine heatwaves, rising sea levels, bushfires, and heatwaves. She said these had a significant impact on First Peoples on country, particularly in remote and isolated communities.

Yirrganydji traditional owner from the Cairns area, Gavin Singleton, said First Peoples were on the front line of the changing climate.

“From changing weather patterns, to shifts in natural ecosystems, climate change is a clear and present threat to our people and our culture,” he said.

There is an obvious need to enhance and support the ability of First Peoples to adapt to a changing climates.

“This gap will only be addressed if First Peoples are engaged and included at the design stage of research.”

The event is part of the Australian Government’s national environmental science program’s Earth Systems and Climate Change hub led by CSIRO.

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