Water Journal : Water Journal June 2013
JUNE 2013 WATER "I don't think I can be far away from the river, because the river... is in my blood. It is part of me. I was born on the river. I have lived on the river all my life and I am an elder now. We are all part of the food chain, and that's why I feel a part of it -- well I am... The river gave us life, the river fed us," says Agnes Rigney, Ngarrindjeri woman (2004). The sustainability and custodianship evident in Aboriginal cultural practices is a direct re ection of this perspective. Jai Allison, facilitator on the trip and previous eld volunteer with EWB, observed this well. "The miner sees resources. The hydrologist sees watercourses. What Uncle Tom at the Coorong showed us was an unfathomable intimacy of understanding of the species and the interactions of environment and biodiversity that gives natural resource management a whole new meaning." MEASURING THE INTANGIBLE The age-old ability of Aboriginal people to interact with land and water in such an integrated and sustainable fashion means that there are few lasting traces of their habitation. This is an impressive feat compared with today's infrastructure-based approach to success. Yet it is this limited physical evidence that challenges the ability of Aboriginal Nations to prove their long-term connection with the land. It is unsurprising and somewhat ironic that their missing links into Australian resource management policy are method and quanti cation. Historically, Aboriginal stories and traditional resource management practices have been ignored by governments and settlers in attempts to recreate European landscapes and values in the new, typically arid landscape (Cathcart, 2009). This has pervaded Australian policy ever since. The growing empowerment of Aboriginal Australians as they ght to become stakeholders on their lands and waters is changing this, with policy makers and regulators increasingly required to listen to Indigenous perspectives on water management. This has been largely driven by the will of Aboriginal communities to obtain suf cient water to sustain the land in line with their cultural values. As opportunities are explored for making livelihoods "on-Country" communities are also beginning to appreciate how the commercial value of water can help their culture thrive by avoiding the fragmentation of moving elsewhere for work. Consultation, such as that by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and the CSIRO, undertaken regarding the impacts of the new Murray--Darling Basin Plan, highlights the current challenges that Aboriginal communities face in accessing water allocations. Foremost of these is the ideological issue of reconciling market- driven competition with the intangible aspects of Aboriginal water values (CSIRO, 2010). This is re ected in the current lack of method to quantify Aboriginal water usage, specify Aboriginal water Learning about water resource management at the Hattah Lakes Environmental Flows Project, hosted by GHD in Mildura. Our trusty four-wheel drives with the red dirt and blue sky of Murra Murra Station.
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