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Stories, science and the way water moves in the desert

Peter Murray

Some magical thinking has gone into putting together the Shell Two-Way Learning Project. It’s a water-monitoring project involving Traditional Owners, Rangers and school students, and it aims to match traditional knowledge about water with Western science.

Peter Murray, Chief Operations Officer of Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation, says the findings are valuable, should there be future exploration or developments on Ngurrara country. 

“It’s crucial we understand the way water is connected, the way water moves and the way water is changing in the desert. The findings from this project and this knowledge will help us protect Ngurrara country,” Mr Murray says.

Already, the Ngurrara Rangers have been working at a number of jilas (waterholes) in The Great Sandy Desert, using instruments to measure water levels and gauge the direction of water flow. Each jila has its own traditional story and is connected to another jila through story and song—this project, uses Western science as an alternate way of understanding this connection.

In addition, the project aims to create and provide unique opportunities for students to reach their true potential in the field of science or on country as rangers. The students are mostly from the Walmajarri clan and are enrolled at Djugareri, Yakanarra, Wulungarra and Fitzroy Crossing High. Given the involvement of Rangers and Traditional Owners, there’s also a unique opportunity for intergenerational teaching, and exposing students to potential career paths post-school.

Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation believes it’s crucial that traditional stories are passed on to our young people and that our kids have the opportunity to learn and work on country.