This publication includes interviews with Aboriginal people, combined with extensive background research. It explores the spiritual and economic significance of various Illawarra environments – including marine, inter-tidal, estuarine, woodland and forest habitats – to the Aboriginal people of the Illawarra.
In 1996 the Australian Government recognised the national importance of Australia’s indigenous peoples’ knowledge of plants and animals to the conservation of Australia’s biological diversity. Resources were provided for the conservation of traditional biological knowledge through cooperative ethnobiological programs. This initiative was further supported in 2001 by the Australian Government's pledge to ‘maintain and record indigenous peoples’ ethnobiological knowledge’ as part of its ‘National Objectives and Targets for Biodiversity Conservation 2001–2005’. The New South Wales Government incorporated these principles into its NSW Biodiversity Strategy (1999, 2001) stating that: Traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander management practices have proved important for the maintenance of biological diversity and their integration into current management programs should be pursued where appropriate (NSW 2001).
The publication was produced as part of the Illawarra Regional Aboriginal Heritage Study (IRAHS), which helped to guide planning as well as encourage partnership with Aboriginal communities for environmental protection. It is a valuable resource for the Illawarra Aboriginal community and the wider community.
As part of the IRAHS, an Aboriginal Illawarra resources database was created to incorporate local Aboriginal community knowledge and relevant oral and written material about Aboriginal connections with the plants and animals of the Illawarra. A selection of items from the database were used to produce this publication based on their importance in stories of Country and as totems and for their diversity of uses.