Local Indigenous people have not been consulted during the creation of the Council’s new flood maps, *PS Logan can reveal.
This is despite expert knowledge about the history of the local river system that has been passed down for thousands of years.
Uncle Terry Stedman said ignoring traditional custodians of the land means authorities are missing out on information from people who “walk the country and maintain the records”.
He added: “It’s quite concerning.”
In September Logan City Council is due to release the new maps outlining flood risks, based on scientific modelling and data from floods recorded since European settlement.
But research published in 2016 found that Indigenous knowledge is still being passed on about flood events from 7,000 years ago.
The study, by researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast and University of New England, found that information is handed down from generation to generation through songs, dances and stories that teach the “law” of particular landscapes.
Stedman, who is chair of the Logan district elders, said Indigenous people have always been alarmed by settlers building close to the ever-changing Logan River.
He said: “Europeans tended to have a need to be on the waterway and have their housing right up to it.
“And then that caused a lot of depletion of banks and clear waterways by the inclusion of jetties … as well as sewage polluting that pure, pristine clear water.”
Local Yugambeh man, linguist Shaun Davies, has previously told *PS Logan that the river is known for its transformations over time.
He explained in our story about the history of some of the places along Logan River: “It’s not uncommon for a river to shift over time.
“Rivers are often described as snakes in our stories, known to shift their banks and move in the way that snakes move across the ground.”
Meanwhile, elder Stedman said people with traditional knowledge might also be able to explain some of the causes of the flood risks identified on the new maps.
He said: “If we see that there was a significant flaw in the way that particular land management has occurred, I think that that input should be allowed to be provided from the traditional custodians.
“It can be identified why certain areas are then floodable and have caused maybe a significant risk – it could be anything back to fishing to flora or fauna, to cultural practices, all of those things that we’ve been responsible for for 60,000 years that seem to be going out the window.”
The lawyer added that Logan River is now “a shadow of its former self”.
He said: “It was a very full-bellied river for many, many years until they de-silted it, pulled the gravel out of it and turned it into a muddy hollow.”
Stedman added that local Indigenous people should also have been consulted in case the new maps identify areas with special meaning to the community as being at risk of inundation.
He explained: “Is it going to identify certain areas that can’t be used? And is that going to preclude people who may currently be exercising a cultural practice on a particular area from being able to do that?”
The elder warned that this consultation should be done with particular sensitivity, because some areas of cultural significance are only understood by certain parts of the community.
He said: “There are things that have a particular nature that are seen as being a secret women’s business, or something that may not be appropriate to discuss with men, and therefore, in the Council’s dealing or government dealing with a particular area, it needs to be only dealt with by an appropriate gender.”
Stedman added: “We see ourselves as people of the land – we don’t own the land, the land owns us. And our responsibility is to the cultural maintenance of that land.”
In a report published earlier this year, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that rising sea levels and coastal erosion disproportionately impact Indigenous groups.
It warned: “Traditional coastal lands lost … (are associated with) mental health implications from loss of cultural and traditional artefacts and landscapes, including the destruction and exhumation of ancestral graves and burial grounds.”
The report also outlined the importance of working with Indigenous peoples when addressing climate issues.
It acknowledged that Indigenous peoples have so far been largely excluded from meaningful representation “from the conception of climate change dialogue through to debate and decision-making.”