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Native Oceans Traditional Knowledge Exchange 2008

Supporting Indigenous people to exchange knowledge, information and approaches is a key plank in NAILSMA's efforts to support Indigenous people in the north.

The Native Oceans Community Exchange Program is a partnership between Ocean Revolution and the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA). The exchange program created opportunities for Indigenous and Traditional peoples to share knowledge, skills and experiences about the biological and cultural values and conservation and management of marine and coastal environments. It builds on early work by Ocean Revolution in fostering ecological collaborations within the Comcaac people of Sonora Mexico.

Supported by The Christensen Fund, the inaugural exchange featured an on-country visit to Mexico by Indigenous land and sea managers from Australia in January 2008, and a visit to northern Australia by the Comcaac of Sonora Mexico in November 2008.

In conjunction with the exchange, activities and projects conducted throughout 2008 built on the learnings and experiences gained by the exchange participants. These included: a scholarship program for the Comcaac; and collaboration between the Comcaac and the Australians on the I-tracker project. I-Tracker is a network of Indigenous Land and Sea managers who are working together to collect and share information for better land and sea management.

The exchange proved to be a huge success with cultural knowledge and marine turtle management knowledge exchanged freely between the participants; resulting in greater understanding and the exchange of new skills.

However the greatest achievement of the program was the motivation and camaraderie it inspired —a message clearly expressed by participants in the stories Oceans Apart; United in Action and Adding our Grain of Sand.

The spiritual outcomes of the exchange can be linked solidly to long-term and tangible outcomes. Notable examples include:

  • The Comcaac were successful in obtaining grants from the Mexican Government for turtle management projects. The Comcaac report that it was the inspiration gained from meeting the Australian delegates, whose skill in presentation and successful working relationship with government motivated them to make their own presentation to the Mexican Government.

“The amount of information that you could exchange, from one Indigenous group to another, it was never… you can’t weigh that in dollars. You could weigh it in gold, but not in dollars. It was worth a lot more than what money could buy. And I think that really helped,” said Mr Kris.

  • Torres Strait Islanders finalised eight community management plans for turtle and dugong during 2008. The Islanders attribute the motivation gained by witnessing the dire situation faced by turtle populations in Mexico and learning about the Comcaac decision to stop hunting turtle as a result, as a contributor to the Island communities’ success in finalising the complex plans in a short timeframe.

Torres Strait Regional Authority Chairperson Toshie Kris spoke about the success of the Torres Strait communities in finalising their community based turtle and dugong management plans and summed up the value of the exchange program.Based on the success of the exchange, Ocean Revolution and the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance have committed to continue their collaboration in the Native Oceans Exchange Program.