Alison Byrnes, Tanya Plibersek, Jodi Edwards and Stephen Jones

UOW research to apply Indigenous knowledge to protect whales and dolphins

UOW research to apply Indigenous knowledge to protect whales and dolphins

Project to explore traditional songlines to safeguard marine mammals

Dr Jodi Edwards, Vice Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS), based at the University of Wollongong (UOW), has been awarded $300,000 by the Australian Government to explore how Indigenous songlines have protected whales and dolphins over hundreds of years.

The study will use Indigenous knowledge that for centuries has safeguarded marine mammals and fish across generations. With many species facing threats due to habitat destruction and over-fishing, the study holds the potential to play a crucial role in the effective protection and recovery of threatened ocean populations.

Named the Unbroken Whispers project, the research will specifically delve into First Nations knowledge concerning the southern right whale, vulnerable humpback whale, orcas, and dolphins. The primary aim is to uncover a deeper understanding of their long-term migratory patterns, habitats, and relationships.

Funding for the initiative is provided through the National Environmental Science Program’s Marine and Coastal Hub.

Dr Edwards is based at ANCORS, the only multidisciplinary university-based centre of its type in the Southern Hemisphere dedicated to delivering specialised research, advisory services, education and training in ocean law and policy, maritime security, and marine resources management.

Minister for the Environment and Water the Hon Tanya Plibersek said, "We're lucky to have more than 65,000 years of continuous conservation knowledge that we can learn from. First Nations Australians have cared for land and sea country for generations and are crucial in our fight to better protect our environment and the precious creatures who live in it.

“We know many marine species are under threat from things like habitat loss, pollution and climate change. Projects like this may be the key to how we effectively protect and recover declining populations.”

Hon Stephen Jones, Member for Whitlam, said, “Dr Edwards brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise as a proud Yuin woman and University of Wollongong researcher. I’m looking forward to examining the findings from this important research project.”

Member for Cunningham, Alison Byrnes MP said, “In the lead up to World Whale Day on 18 February 2024, it is great to see the Unbroken Whispers Project, led by local Indigenous researcher Dr Jodi Edwards, receive $300,000 in funding from the Albanese Labor Government.

“The adverse effects of climate change on our marine and coastal environments is an issue that our Government takes extremely seriously and are taking steps to mitigate. This project will start off the coast of Bruny Island in Tasmania, tracking migratory patterns up the east coast, past the Illawarra and finishing in Northern Queensland.

“We look forward to working with Dr Edwards to gain a better understanding of long-term migratory patterns, habitats and relationships of the southern right whale, the vulnerable humpback whale, orcas and dolphins.”