Coastal sea level rise, increased storm wash, storm surges and extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones are predicted to impact on the Australian coastline in future years. The emphasis in research activity in Australia has been directed at issues such as coastal planning and impacts on reef ecosystems and tourism. There has been little focus on the potential loss of coastal cultural heritage sites and how this loss could affect community well-being and identity, particularly for Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in many parts of Australia retain strong cultural associations with their land, which contains important story places, archaeological sites and bush foods. In many cases Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identities are closely linked to such places. Their loss is likely to have an impact on culture and identity, which will compound other negative impacts of climate change on these communities. To date, scientific projections about the likely impacts of climate change have been directed to broad, geographical areas, or vulnerable areas of high density populations. There is a paucity of data on the projected impacts on specific remote regions, where many Australian Indigenous communities are located. In addition, Aboriginal participation in agencies that have responsibility for assessing and mitigating impacts from climate change is minimal. While scientists, government and industry form partnerships to tackle emerging climate change issues, Aboriginal perspectives are largely excluded. This paper considers the potential effects of climate change on Australian Aboriginal coastal sites and the impact that this could have on the cultural heritage resource and Indigenous community identity. Through specific case studies from tropical northern Australia, we propose a culturally relevant strategy to empower local communities to develop the capacity to mitigate these social impacts.
|Keywords:||Indigenous Identity, Cultural Heritage, Climate Change, Coastal Archaeology|
Senior Research Fellow, School of Arts and Social Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Research Officer, School of Arts and Social Sciences, James Cook University, Yungaburra, Queensland, Australia
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