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Using Participatory Action Research to Share Knowledge of the Local Environment and Climate Change: Case Study of Erub Island, Torres Strait

  • Karen Elizabeth McNamara (a1) and John Patrick McNamara (a1)

Reading seasons and environments has been a long-held practice for Torres Strait Islanders through their close relationships with their islands and seas. This research project worked with elders on Erub (Darnley) Island, in the eastern group of islands in the Torres Strait, to document and synthesise their knowledge of seasonal patterns and indicators, and climate change. This knowledge varied from details on the migration and nesting patterns of the main totem birds, to the movement of the Tagai star constellation, to the onset of wind patterns indicating certain planting or fishing cycles. The importance of documenting and transferring such knowledge is that it continues the task of generating interest among the younger generation to ‘read’ their landscape, which is especially pertinent given the projected impacts of climate change. The ability of islanders to identify indicators and ‘read’ their country is an important tool in monitoring and adapting to environmental change, as well as maintaining culture, livelihoods and environment. This article outlines this knowledge, and documents the process of utilising this knowledge to develop a seasonal calendar, which was also transposed into a larger mural at the local primary school. The school children were involved in assembling the mural, and its contents will now form part of the teaching curriculum. It is hoped that by documenting and sharing such knowledge, younger generations can see its value, for instance in monitoring the impacts of environmental change, and in turn it will be valued by them.

Corresponding author
Address for Correspondence: Karen Elizabeth McNamara, Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji Islands. E-mail:
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The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education
  • ISSN: 1326-0111
  • EISSN: 2049-7784
  • URL: /core/journals/australian-journal-of-indigenous-education
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