Women 'Mankarr' teams conduct NRM activities in the western desert

[March 2013] 

Martu women from three western desert communities are working on country to undertake natural resource management (NRM) activities including surveys and monitoring.

Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ) facilitate the Martu women’s land management activities funded by Rangelands NRM, and approximately 180 Martu women from Jigalong, Parnngurr and Punmu have been employed on a part time basis over the past four years.

Fiona Webb, CfoC Program Coordinator from KJ said teams of up to eight women spend a week each month out on country, conducting their work on day trips out from the community, or in the case of overnight camps in conjunction with the KJ Ranger teams.

"The initial focus for the fondly named Mankarr (bilby) teams was fauna monitoring, with teams using a track based monitoring methodology to monitor plots in two to three locations per day within a 100km radius of the community," Ms Webb said.

There are six threatened fauna species residing on Martu land that are monitored for presence/absence, as well as numerous pest and game species.

Alison McGilvray from the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and Zan King from KJ developed Cybertracker sequences that allow Martu to have ownership over the process of gathering the relevant data, through visual representation of the focus questions.

Ms Webb said younger Martu find this technology stimulating whilst Martu elders are the communicators of the traditional knowledge required to gather accurate data.

“This program is really important as a lot of elders and young people get involved in coming out on country and learning about the old ways and other western ways,” said Ivy Bidu (Parnngurr Mankarr team). 

The women utilise their traditional ecological knowledge and receive training in western science to conduct the surveys and monitoring.  

Over the years that the program has been running, activities have expanded to include waterhole monitoring and GPS mapping using the Oziexplorer software program, traditional burning of country, collection of oral histories, preservation of historical artefacts, team development, gathering data with camera traps and pest species location and hunting.

The program has been extremely successful in engaging Martu in contemporary NRM issues and is seen as a great way to share knowledge between generations.

Leah Robinson from Parnngurr said “My children join me on these trips and they learn from me about tracking and hunting."

"When we go out again they can show me. It is really important for children to come out as they can have a job when they finish school,” she said.
 
For more information, contact Fiona Webb at KJ.

Image: Pamela Jeffries from Jigalong, teaching about tracking (Image ©KJ)