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Wiluna women leading two-way science

Wiluna women are leading the implementation of fire management, Malleefowl and feral animal monitoring across three properties in the Wiluna area.

The project, funded by Rangelands NRM is led by the women and is based on two-way science.

Central Desert Land and Community Project Manager Hamish Morgan said two-way science is a method that brings together Indigenous bio-cultural knowledge[1] with standard scientific principles[2].

‘Practically, this has enabled Wiluna women to use their knowledge of country to identify Malleefowl habitat and nesting sites and to define burn plans and implement patch burning of hummock grasslands that protects these habitats from large summer wildfires,” Mr Morgan said.

The women have also implemented 24 fauna monitoring sites across two properties with different feral animal management regimes.

These sites are monitored three times a year and provide foundational knowledge of fauna occupancy and change over time.

Mr Morgan said the early trends in the data suggest that targeted cat baiting does indeed reduce cat numbers while maintaining dingo numbers.

“Interestingly it also seems that where dingo numbers are higher cat numbers are lower with fewer individuals and those individual being more mobile,” Mr Morgan said.

The suggestion here is that where there are dingoes in the landscape cat behavior is affected and they move around more to avoid dingoes.

“The project has not only brought together strong knowledge with good science it has also enabled women to lead the project and implement monitoring and management regimes that connect with their knowledge, traditions and expertise,” Mr Morgan said.

As the project moves into its final year the women are keen to consolidate the data collected so far and align management and monitoring regimes across the three properties to start to implement a landscape approach to looking after country.

Wiluna Ranger Annette Williams said it’s been really good working on the country.

“W’ve been working with a scientist, Jackie [Dr Jackie Courtney], and learning her up Martu way,” Ms Williams said.

“She’ been learning us things too, like all the scientific names for animals. We tell her the Martu names and stories for those animals and she tells us the science name and stories for those animals.”

“It’s really special for us to look after country, our rock-holes and places. We’ve been showing her those places so she respect our things and knowledge. She started crying at one rock-hole I showed her, you know those places are special.”

1 Indigenous bio-cultural knowledge: knowledge accumulated over hundreds of generations based on first-hand practical experience of resource management and use.
2 Standard scientific principles: standardised experimental design, survey and data analysis.