Nature in Culture: Overturning Aqua Nullius

Water is the lifeblood of civilisations, ecosystems and cultures, however, for years this source of life has been exploited and polluted. As the threat of climate change worsens, academics and scientists are turning to Indigenous knowledge to alter attitudes and encourage sustainable practices.

Dr Virginia Marshall is a Wiradjuri Nyemba woman, practising lawyer and legal scholar. She is particularly focussed on critically analysing Indigenous water use – nationally and internationally – and in developing Indigenous culturally appropriate mechanisms for water frameworks and ethical water use.

Here Virginia talks along a continuum of interconnected ideas: water, land, Indigenous science, Indigenous knowledge, IP, identity, climate change, policy and truth and reconciliation. She discusses the imperative to secure Aboriginal water rights, that is in disbanding the notion of aqua nullius – that the waters of the Australian continent were outside of Indigenous governance structures and cultural use and thus ‘free’ for colonial claims. She explains the inseparability of land and water and Indigenous identity and of the disaster of creating water property rights in Australia.

She discusses the important impacts of climate change on Indigenous Peoples and the need for Indigenous people and knowledge to be central in climate change debates globally, before turning the discussion to creating truth and reconciliation in Australia.


Episode 3 of The Re-(E)mergence of Nature in Culture series convened by Dr Christine Winter.

The Re-(E)mergence of Nature in Culture podcast series originated from a two-day symposium, the second of its kind. It’s an opportunity for Indigenous scholars and people working with Indigenous scholars and Indigenous peoples to come together, discuss the ways in which culture and nature are entwined in the philosophies, lives and strengths of indigenous peoples. Importantly, we reflect on the leadership these perspectives offer as the world faces multiple challenges such as climate change, pollution and associated biocultural destruction.


Timestamps

00:11   Introduction – Christine Winter
02:30   The Birth of Aqua Nullius
09:40   Sacredness of Water and Land
12:10   Epistemology of Indigenous Science
17:00   Who’s Realising the Importance of Indigenous Science?
22:55   Legally Protecting Indigenous Knowledge
26:25   Indigenous Inclusion in Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Decisions
32:40   The Importance of Respect

Speaker

Dr Virginia Marshall is a Wiradjuri Nyemba woman and Inaugural Indigenous Postdoctoral Fellow with the Australian National University’s School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) and the Fenner School of Environment and Society. She is a practising lawyer and duty solicitor, a former associate & researcher with the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney and professional member of the NSW Law Society and Women Lawyers Association of NSW. Her research focuses on Indigenous water use – nationally and internationally – and in developing Indigenous culturally appropriate mechanisms for water frameworks and ethical water use.