Narratives from the arid lands; the meeting of ecologies and cultural waters for mutable times — ASN Events

Narratives from the arid lands; the meeting of ecologies and cultural waters for mutable times (14802)

Gini Lee 1
  1. University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia

This paper discusses recent landscape assessment fieldwork and findings located in the vast arid water systems of central South Australia, where the concept of cultural water has recently entered into the lexicon of landscape values. Drawing upon ongoing collaboration with experts in ecology, hydrology and geomorphology and the knowledge of local Aboriginal groups, the water systems and landscapes of the Neales River and the Cooper Creek of South Australia are also visualised through the lens of landscape aesthetics and the traces of human occupation and intervention. The natural heritage of these vast arid systems, which comprise one of the last unregulated river systems in the world, is ultimately recorded through scientific approaches to ongoing measuring and calibration of waters over time. As a companion study, the landscape assessment and cultural exploitation of the variety of water systems is informed by scientific method and findings and influence of the range of users including; industrial, productive, conservation, tourism and cultural groups.

The intention of this program, supported by the South Australian Arid Lands NRM, is to provide a record of the condition and use of critical refugia waterholes and other associated surface water systems. However, the landscape assessment program necessarily attends to the dynamics of water use in places according to the seasonal presence and absence of water over dry and wet times, in relation to the values and practices of the variety of people who live, work, recreate and obtain spiritual succour in these marginal places.

Further to this assessment and taking a landscape architectural design approach, the methodology drawn from fieldwork and the social, historical, creative and cultural activities that mark the landscape is further applied to a landscape design program for another landscape sequence based upon tourism dynamics in the arid landscapes of south western USA. Ultimately, this design research seeks to influence planning and management regimes for these unique and ancient landscapes through focus on the performance of river systems as magnets in landscapes where dryness is ever-present and water is precious.