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Compartmentalising Culture: the articulation and consideration of Indigenous values in water resource management

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Social values are receiving increased attention in natural resource management policy and practice, and the notion of cultural values has recently emerged, particularly in relation to water resources. Philosophers, environmental policy analysts and others with an interest in environmental valuation have critically analysed value concepts and theories. A popular focus is the commonly ‘bipolar' character of value construed as either an intrinsic or utilitarian concept. This paper focuses on the treatment of Indigenous values in contemporary water resource management. The Daly River region of the Northern Territory is undergoing increased agricultural intensification. A 12 month planning exercise sought to integrate social, economic, environmental and cultural values into decisions about land use and water extraction. Separate treatment of Indigenous and non-Indigenous social values compounded the reification of Aboriginal ‘cultural values' which were perceived largely within the confines of a cultural heritage paradigm. The heritage paradigm and other common influential theories of value focus on objects, entities and places at the expense of recognition and valuation of relationships, processes and connections between social groups, people and place, and people and non-human entities.
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Keywords: Australia; Cultural value; Indigenous value; Northern Territory; catchment planning; water resource management

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: CSIRO, Canberra, Australia

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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