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Date posted: 30 April 2014
Two young Indigenous climate ambassadors have been touring Australia to document the impact of the changing natural environment on traditional communities.
Narelle Long and Malcolm Lynch have traveled all across the South Pacific, from the Great Southern Oceans to the Tiwi Islands to the Great Barrier Reef, and they say it's clear climate change is already having an alarming impact on Indigenous culture and community. The team are combining climate change science and Indigenous traditional wisdom to assess so-called tipping points to bring about a better understanding of how the climate system is changing.
The two ambassadors have made a documentary called The tipping points - oceans: the last frontier, which aired on NITV. One of the tipping points Malcolm observed was the wattle flowering pattern. The wattle bloom is supposed to signify the beginning of hunting season. 'The wattle is flowering and at the moment this is really rare for us. It's happening too early, I think it is about three months too early,' says Kevin, a Tiwi Island Tour Guide.
This disrupts traditional hunting practices and offers a clear indication that the population of just 1500 is already trying to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Community Elder Barry Wurrumiyanga says the community is having to adapt their lives to accommodate changes in the environment. 'This is the future for the young people to understand what is going to happen,' he says.
Climate change is also having an effect on food security within some Indigenous regions, with rising water levels disrupting traditional fishing methods, and the longevity of some of the edible plants. 'To be able to, through the tipping point series, come back home to country and see what is actually happening in my community, and around Australia, is a little bit alarming,' Narelle Long told SBS. She says she's not a climate change crusader, but says she thinks it's time to raise awareness after Elders showed her how turtles, a vital source of traditional food, aren't breeding.
With such a strong connection to land, climate change may also mean culture change for the next generation of Indigenous Australians.