Greenways as Indigenous cultural pathways: healing landscape and peoples one step at a time in the south west of Western Australia
conference contributionposted on 2019-01-01, 00:00 authored by Simon KilbaneSimon Kilbane
The South West of Western Australia (SWWA) is widely known as one of the world’s most biodiverse regions and a recognised biodiversity hotspot. However, since European colonisation approximately 200 years ago, this landscape has been cleared, fragmented and degraded at large and small scales, a problem magnified by being one of the planet’s most vulnerable locations to climate change. This region also hosts one of the world’s longest continuous cultures, the Nyungar people, who have lived in the SWWA for at least 38,000 years. However following colonisation Nyungar land management practices – that once connected the region’s Traditional Owners with place, including firestick farming and seasonal movement – have been mostly lost with consequences not only for the biological makeup and diversity of the region but also for their culture. Fortunately, a range of contemporary projects, policies and plans have emerged that endeavour to address both the region’s environmental challenges – including ecological fragmentation and species extinction – as well as aiming to reconnect the Nyungar peoples and traditional landscape practices with place. These projects provide a holistic vision to the challenge of improving landscape health and central to this practice is the continued maintenance of walking linkages across the landscape, through vegetated corridors or pathways, sometimes referred to as ‘songlines’. This research will introduce three SWWA project examples that at varying scales explore the intersection of Indigenous knowledge, culture and practice with green infrastructure planning across challenging, complex and contested urban and regional environments. This range of Greenways promote the experience of traversing landscapes on foot as a critical step toward the simultaneous healing of self, culture, community and landscape - embracing both ecological restoration as well as cultural and spiritual health. These emerging projects thereby propose an expanded and diverse spectrum of mutual benefits, offer greater buy-in from broad sectors of community and offer an additional tool toward implementation. While this research could appear specific to this part of the world, it offers contemporary examples for how to plan, design and visualise Greenways in order to deliver the widest diversity of benefits across landscapes in question; as well as a potential novel contribution to the Greenway typology, highlighting a new chapter in the ever-expanding and rich greenway (and green infrastructure) narrative.