TRaCK: Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge

Science and knowledge that governments, communities, industries for sustainable use of Australia's tropical rivers and estuaries

Aquatic resources make an important contribution to Indigenous household budgets

Aquatic resources make an important contribution to Indigenous household budgets

Australia’s tropical rivers hold special significance for Indigenous communities. Indigenous people value rivers in a number of interrelated ways; rivers provide food and medicines; they are part of a culturally significant landscape; and have the potential to sustain future water-related businesses and employment.

TRaCK researchers set out to understand when and where Indigenous people were harvesting aquatic resources like fish, turtles and lotus lilies, and the contribution these resources make to their diets and household incomes.

In the Daly River region in the Northern Territory, the project team worked with the communities of Kybrook Farm and Pine Creek and Nauiyu Nambiyu (Daly River). In the Fitzroy Valley of the Kimberley in Western Australia, residents from the communities of Bayulu, Bungardi, Darlgunya, Junjuwa, Ngurtuwarta, Muludja and Noonkanbah were involved.

Maps of the spatial distribution of resource use were created to help understand which habitats were most commonly used and how river flows might affect those habitats. Household surveys were undertaken to work out how often and where people were hunting or fishing, and whether they used the resources themselves or shared them around. Finally, the project team conducted a range of activities to reveal the social and cultural value of river systems with the goal of better understanding what the effects of water-use changes would be.

The research showed that many Indigenous people regularly hunt and fish and that catches are widely shared or traded with others. When the cost of buying these aquatic resources in the shop was calculated, it was found that aquatic resources make a substantial contribution to household incomes in regions where average incomes are very low. Furthermore these resources are an essential part of daily social and cultural life - access to wild species, and the aquatic habitats that support them, is critical to maintaining a vibrant customary economy.

Research from other TRaCK projects has shown that many of the species that are important for customary harvest, like long-necked turtles, black bream, barramundi and mullet are also the species at high risk from reduced river flows.

Read more in the project’s summary report.