Indigenous Knowledge in Sustainable Development – Water

Murray River Colours by Kwest on AdobeStock

As the frequency of natural disasters increases, it is crucial to recognise that indigenous communities worldwide have developed specialised knowledge and practices for adapting to environmental changes and disasters such as floods, fires, drought and other issues resulting from climate change. This workshop explores the theme of Indigenous knowledge around water and flood/drought prevention. We will examine examples and practices from various Indigenous communities around Australia and look at how they address flood risks and other water management issues. More importantly, the discussion will help us understand the relationship between water as a vital element in the environment and Indigenous cultures. It will demonstrate the significance of intangible cultural heritage in sustainable development practices and our relationship with nature.

This workshop is a collaborative effort between the National Museum of Australia and the ANU Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies, promoting cross-disciplinary knowledge exchange and engaging diverse perspectives on sustainable development. It is part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage course (HUMN8035) at the Centre of Museum and Heritage Studies.

This workshop is for students. Please email to register your participation.

Friday 1 September 2023, 10 am -12 pm
Tour at the Great Southern Land Gallery, National Museum of Australia – Martha Sear.
Followed by Discussion

Presenters and facilitators

Jilda Andrews - Research Fellow, The Australian National University/National Museum of Australia. Jilda is a Yuwaalaraay woman, cultural practitioner and researcher based in Canberra at the Australian National University and the National Museum of Australia. Her major area of research expertise is in ethnographic collections in museums from Australian origins, the exhibition and display of ethnographic collections in museum contexts and ongoing relationships of exchange with Indigenous source communities including repatriation.

Sheryl Hedges - Branch Head, First Nations Policy Engagement, Water Policy Division. Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. Sheryl is a Walbanga woman and a leader in national water management. Sheryl is currently leading initiatives relating to better access to, management and ownership of water for First Nations people in the Murray-Darling Basin and across Australia.

Martha Sear - Head of the Anthropocene Australian Curatorial Centre and Senior Curator at the National Museum of Australia. Martha led the Curatorial team that developed the new Great Southern Land gallery at the Museum and also worked on the Journeys and Landmarks galleries.

Kirsten Wehner - James O. Fairfax Senior Fellow in Culture and Environment, National Museum of Australia. Trained as a visual anthropologist, Kirsten has produced over 30 exhibitions, digital platforms and films exploring Australian cultures and environments. Her current work focuses on how museums can help communities respond to challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and cultural dislocation.

Yujie Zhu - Associate Professor, ANU Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies. Yujie specialises in teaching World Heritage and Intangible Cultural Heritage and is interested in the cultural politics of heritage through memory and museum spaces. He organizes annual workshops focused on the incorporation of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge in sustainable development.

Nicola van Dijk - Course convenor of HUMN 8035. Nicola has a background in working with Indigenous communities in heritage and repatriation. 

No events are currently scheduled. Details of future events will be posted as they become available.

Date & time

Fri 01 Sep 2023, 10am–12pm


National Museum of Australia


Nicola van Dijk and Yujie Zhu


Updated:  26 October 2023/Responsible Officer:  Centre Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications