Celebrating Kunwinjku knowledge

20 January 2016

Kunwinjku calendar contributors Connie Nayinggul, Helen Nawirridj, Julie Narndal with CSIRO’s Emma Ligtermoet.

Kunwinjku calendar contributors Connie Nayinggul, Helen Nawirridj, Julie Narndal with CSIRO’s Emma Ligtermoet.

A beautiful calendar of Kunwinjku ecological knowledge was launched at Gunbalanya School in Arnhem Land last month.

CSIRO PhD student, Emma Ligtermoet, worked with Traditional Owners from Kunbarlanja (Gunbalanya) in western Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory to document their knowledge of the seasons and the environment, with support from the Northern Australia Hub.

“We want to share our knowledge with the kids and help them learn at school,” said senior Kunbarlanja Traditional Owner, Julie Narndal.

Ms Ligtermoet said that as both a senior Traditional Owner and Gunbalanya School educator, Ms Narndal wanted to record Indigenous ecological knowledge in a way that helped students learn ‘both ways’.

“Julie felt a seasonal calendar would be a valuable cultural learning aid to help share Aboriginal knowledge with the next generation, while also providing relevant entry points for students into the science curriculum,” she said.

Ms Ligtermoet said interest in developing a Kunbarlanja Kunwinjku calendar was sparked after Traditional Owners saw the suite of seasonal calendars developed by CSIRO as part of the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge program, and through the course of her field work.

“My PhD research focuses on freshwater customary harvesting practices and climate change adaptation,” she said.

“This research included talking with people about their observations of environmental change, such as changes in weather characteristics, or in the timing of key seasonal events that influenced harvesting and hunting, like plant flowering and fruiting or animal movement or reproduction, so the production of a seasonal calendar complemented this well.”

Ms Ligtermoet and Ms Narndal collaborated closely with other senior knowledge holders in the Gunbalanya community, including Connie Nayinggul and Donna Nadjamerrek and their families.

Over a year the many discussions between contributors helped to refresh and reinvigorate the seasonal knowledge they share.

‘It’s really good you know, I’m remembering again and learning some new things too from those other ladies,’ Ms Narndal said.

The development of the Kunbarlanja (Gunbalanya) Kunwinjku seasonal calendar was supported by the Northern Australia Hub, CSIRO, and the Australian National University. Regional linguist and ANU Research Fellow, Dr Murray Garde, also provided in-kind support through the Bininj Gunwok Language Project.

You can download a printable version of the Kunwinjku seasons calendar from the CSIRO Research Publications Repository.

CSIRO_NERP Kunwinjku Seasonal Calendar

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