Song For The Mardoowara

‘Song For The Mardoowara’

Written by Gwen Knox in collaboration with Dr Anne Poelina.

Promotional film by Pia Davids of Feral Films.

A beautiful new puppetry work that tells stories that flow from the mighty Mardoowarra or the Fitzroy River in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia. - access the YouTube video here.

Protecting The Fitzroy River Catchment



"...We welcome the Western Australian Government’s commitment to create a new protected area in the Fitzroy River Catchment, and to create a management plan to ensure the protection of the National Heritage and other significant cultural and environmental values of the river and provide a basis for sustainable development.

The Fitzroy River is one of the largest principally unregulated rivers remaining in Australia and is recognised as a centre of cultural life and biodiversity in the Kimberley.1 The river follows a path from the roof of the central Kimberley Plateau, flowing through spectacular and ancient gorges in the King Leopold and Napier Ranges, and coursing between wide floodplains before meeting the ocean at King Sound. The river and catchment support a rich and unique biodiversity of aquatic and terrestrial life with national heritage listed natural and cultural values." 

Download the Science Statement of Support - [ PDF 440KB ]

Download the Australian's 'Finally, scientific-based evidence for Northern Australia food bowl' article - [ PDF 148 KB ]

Growing Up In Old Broome

Anne - Poelina

Download the MP3 recording

Anne grew up in Broome, in northwest Australia, one of the few places where the White Australia Policy didn't apply.

Anne’s father came to Broome from West Timor as a pearl diver, and fell in love with her mother at first sight.

Their family was a part of Broome’s unique community: a mix of Aboriginal, Chinese, Japanese and European people, cultures, and ways of cooking.

Anne was introduced to her country, from her mother’s side of the family, and given ancient stories that connect the Kimberley to central Australia

She is now the Managing Director of the Indigenous not-for-profit organisation Madjulla, based in Broome.

Duration: 48min 21sec

Broadcast: Tue 28 Aug 2018, 11:00am

Source: ABC

Defence Of Country


Defence of Country: Aboriginal people dealing with the impacts of globalisation in Australia. 'Success Stories' Session with Dr Anne Poelina, Nyikina Mangala, WA

" we stay strong...and for me what keeps me strong is country and when I am exhausted I go back and I lay on the ground out by the billabong and I can feel the energy of the country through me and rejuvenating me." - Dr. Anne Poelina, Defence of Country, The University of Sydney, Sydney Environment Institute - 26 July, 2017.

Available at  

Waking Up The Snake

As quoted from the website.

"....This week we present a very special podcast celebrating this year's NAIDOC Week in Australia. Dr Anne Poelina is a Nyikina Traditional Custodian from the Mardoowarra, Lower Fitzroy River, in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia. And if anywhere epitomizes the critical time we’re in, it’s in the spectacular cultural and natural landscapes of her homeland. Almost incredibly, there are 40,000+ fracking wells slated for this area, along with the damming of the Fitzroy River, and more ‘old-model’ industrial agriculture. Yet the new economy is also in tow here, and this is where Anne is currently focusing her extraordinary breadth of cross-cultural knowledge and experience."

"....Anne is an international award winner, Managing Director of Madjulla Incorporated, Councillor at the Australian Conservation Foundation, a qualified nurse, traditional midwife, has multiple postgraduate degrees, and over 30 years’ experience in Indigenous health, education, language and community development. Our Director Anthony James caught up with her at her home in Broome recently, to talk about what the shape the new economy might take in the Kimberley and beyond, how we can make it happen, and the enormous opportunity in treaty, recognition and connection with Australia’s First Nations."

Riverman, by the Pigram Brothers
Song for the Mardoowarra, by Gwen Knox with Anne Poelina, played by Mick Stevens, and sung by the Broome Primary School Choir

Pic: Magali McDuffie

Get more:

Majala - 
NAIDOC Week 8-15 July, celebrating Indigenous women - 
Environs Kimberley - 
New Economy Network Australia - 
Gwen Knox & Big Mama productions - 
The film clip of the Song for the Mardoowarra - (they will be touring this month in the Kimberley, and are available for bookings from early 2019)
Richard Flanagan at the National Press Club -…-flanagan/9672524 
Welcome to Country, a new travel guide to Indigenous Australia -…n/9781741175431

Read more about this at

Pedagogy Of Hope and Freedom


"...My Indigenous heritage is Nyikina; ‘ngajanoo Yimardoowarra marnil’, in my language means “a woman who belongs to our sacred river”, which centres me as property and a guardian of the Martuwarra (Fitzroy River). My career has focused on Indigenous health and wellbeing development using human, Indigenous rights and environmental justice." - download the full article here


"...Kimberley Traditional Owners will meet with State Government representatives in Perth today during the first ever gathering of the newly formed Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council. The Aboriginal body will urge government and industry to support the council as the new Traditional Owner representative group for management of the Fitzroy River and its catchment." - Read more of this in the KLC website 

Building Research Partnerships

Building research partnerships for sustainable and innovative Indigenous communities in Australia’s Kimberley

Dr Anne Poelina Peter Cullen Fellow and Adjunct Senior Researcher and with the University of Notre Dame) worked closely with Dr Johan Nordensvard and Lindsay-Marie Armstrong from theUniversity of Southampton (United Kingdom) to facilitate a Kimberley 'Think Tank' Workshop.  Collaboration included community members from Bidan, Pandanus Park and Balginjirr riverside communities along with independent scholars and researchers associated with a range of national universities and private institutions.

Figure 1 Group photo. Photographer Cathie Martin

            The workshop members identified Climate change as one of greatest challenges facing humanity. Our reliance on fossil fuels has led us into destructive path dependency. Anthropogenic climate change is considered to be one of the greatest threats to human security. There is a direct correlation between the increase of emissions of greenhouse gasses, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), leading to climate change and the rise of industrialisation, increasing affluence and consumption of developed countries. The need to reduce carbon emissions has dominated the global environmental policy agenda since the 1990s. The role of Indigenous peoples is under explored in terms of contributing to sustainable development and climate change mitigation pathways that are both environmentally and socially just. Indigenous people have brought forward the role of traditional ecological knowledge in identifying and adapting to climate change and have increasingly used legal forums for their cases. The workshop members identified that there is an urgency for Indigenous groups to prepare for and adapt to climate change in ways that support cultural values while also actively considering socioeconomic and political factors. This becomes even more important when proposed developments driven by large economic investment in Indigenous people’s land threatens the environment, traditional livelihoods and cultural values of communities.

Many countries are heavily reliant on extracting fossil fuels and pursuing other unsustainable mining activities, which have severe impacts on lands inhabited by indigenous people since time immemorial. It is therefore of high importance to build research and teaching partnerships for sustainable Indigenous communities to show alternative development pathways towards wellbeing and community capacity. The workshop worked on developing pathways for how to support innovation, research and teaching and to build capacity of Aboriginal people and their communities to strengthen their hybrid and new economies for sustainable life and sustainable development focused on place and methods of co-operation.  There were two outcomes that were of paramount importance:

  1. to create and support a long term initiative and physical space – a college and innovation hub - where this can take place and;
  2. to develop a normative framework for how international and national co-operation can take place within an local Indigenous framework.

With combined elements of a research institute, innovation hub and secondary college, the Mardoowarra Institute and College being planned through Dr Poelina's work is visualised as a centre of excellence in sustainability and liveability for the tropics that develops and applies knowledge, promoting empowered development through integrating the arts, science culture and nature.  The Institute will test, develop and demonstrate innovations in education and training for empowered development suited to remote tropical regions. These will include human habitats and low carbon villages suited to the tropics. Through using best practice in tropical architecture and technology the college itself will be a working model of the innovative and appropriate systems it seeks to promote and extend across tropical environments in Australia and internationally. The Institute will develop, test and showcase suitable technologies and systems and build skills in using them. It is planned that a number of villages will have transformation acceleration programs where retooling and the retrofitting can be tested.

Programs of education, training, research and development will be implemented in conjunction with partners. These will range from secondary and trade training through to post graduate studies. All studies will be grounded in inter-cultural tolerance and respect. There will local skills training and enterprise development as well as opportunities for coordinating citizen science programs through to expert workshops to long-term and large-scale Research and Development (R&D) projects. The hub will act as centre for linking people across the Kimberley with people working on similar projects across the world on systems for supporting empowered cultural appropriate development. Through the R&D program it is planned to build linkages to a number of other case study sites overseas.

There was broad agreement that local research and capacity building projects would be seen as world's better practice in building a Transformational Model to shift Indigenous people from welfare to wealth creation. The Transformational Model will build the capacity and the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal/Indigenous people and their communities. We believe such a model will have international outcomes with the ability to impact on Indigenous peoples across the globe. 



Dr Anne Poelina

3rd July 2017 see International River Symposium website 

Dr Anne Poelina

Posted at 09:35h in by DeeperLook.Support 0 Comments

Dr Anne Poelina is a Nyikina Warrwa (Indigenous Australian) woman from the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia. She holds a Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Master of Education, Master of Arts (Indigenous Social Policy) and she is a Doctor of Philosophy.  Dr Poelina is Managing Director of the Madjulla Association, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow University of Notre Dame, Adjunct Research Fellow Charles Darwin University, and Director of the Walalakoo Native Title Body Corporate and she is also a Peter Cullen Fellow.

Dr Poelina is completing a Doctor of Health Science investigating the cultural determinants of Indigenous health and wellbeing. Through her post-graduate studies in biophysical and social sciences and education, Anne incorporates a trans-disciplinary approach to sustainable life and sustainable development on her river country.  Anne’s current cultural legal research is focused on protecting her sacred river, Mardoowarra’s Right to Life. Her work focuses on a brokerage model that builds relationships between academic, professional, government, business, industry and community partners through new culture, science and conservation economies for the common good.

Keynote presentation: Guardians of the Mardoowarra (Fitzroy River) (14 minute film)

On October 2016 in Brisbane at the Banco Courts together with friends of the Mardoowarra, Dr Poelina brought the case to the Tribunal to ask the citizens of the court to recognise the Mardoowarra as a living ancestral being with a right to life… like her sister the Whanganui River in New Zealand. The Whanganui River has stood strong, and with the help of her Indigenous guardians and the strength and wisdom of their legal and cultural governance, she has set international legal precedence across Mother Earth!

Following the Tribunal for Nature, Traditional Owners, Guardians of the Fitzroy River Catchment (in north-west WA), met on the 2nd and 3rd of November 2016 in Fitzroy Crossing on the banks of the river to send a message to the world, The Fitzroy River Declaration. The ‘Fitzroy River Declaration’ aims to protect the traditional and environmental values that underpin the river’s National Heritage Listing. The Fitzroy River Declaration 2016 sets a national standard for native title, as well as enshrining the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for self-determining our responsibilities as guardians of the Fitzroy River as being fundamental to the management of this globally unique river system. The Declaration sends a strong message to the Federal Government to endorse the EPBC Act (1999) draft Referral Guidelines for the West Kimberley National Heritage Places (2012) as the guiding principles for development within the Fitzroy Catchment.

More information and associated articles:

Climate justice to broaden science with Indigenous Knowledge | Fitzroy River Declaration | BRIDGING No. 16: Managing Kimberley water now for the future | Blood Line Song Part 1 | BRIDGING No. 19: Building a new economy: Environmental Humanism

The International Riversymposium is managed by the International RiverFoundation, which works in partnerships around the world to facilitate the sustainable management of the world’s rivers.

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Riversymposium 2017 | Brisbane, Australia | 18 - 20 September


Mardoowarra Painting at the NSW Art Gallery

Guardians Of The Mardoowara


Dr Anne Poelina, a 2011 Fellow of the Peter Cullen Trust.

"....In October 2016 I presented Mardoowarra (Fitzroy River) vs State of WA and Federal Government in a mock trial to the Tribunal for Nature in Brisbane.

This citizens’ tribunal heard cases presented by citizens and Earth lawyers concerned about the destruction of ecosystems and the wider Earth community in Australia. Together with friends of the Mardoowarra, I brought the case to the Tribunal to ask the citizens of the court to recognise the Mardoowarra as a living entity with a right to life ... like her sister the Wanganui River in New Zealand.

The Wanganui River has stood strong, and with the help of her Indigenous guardians and the strength and wisdom of their legal and cultural governance, she now has set international legal precedence across Mother Earth!

Fitzroy River Declaration

Following the Tribunal for Nature, Traditional Owners (photo above), guardians
of the Fitzroy River Catchment (in north-west WA), met on the 2nd and 3rd of November 2016 in Fitzroy Crossing on the banks of the river. They are concerned by the extensive development proposals facing the Fitzroy River and its catchment and the potential for cumulative impacts on its unique cultural and environmental values.

The unique cultural and environmental values of the Fitzroy River and its catchment are of national and international significance. The Fitzroy River is a living ancestral being and has a right to life. It must be protected for current and future generations, and managed jointly by the Traditional Owners of the river. In response to increasing development pressure, Kimberley Traditional Owners have pledged to work together to protect and manage the Fitzroy River and its tributaries, one of the most iconic wild rivers in Western Australia. The ‘Fitzroy River Declaration’ (see box, right),

aims to protect the traditional and environmental values that underpin the river’s National Heritage Listing.

It is because of its exceptional natural and cultural values to the nation that the entire Fitzroy River Catchment was added to the National Heritage Listing in 2011 by the Australian Government. The Fitzroy River is also listed as an Aboriginal Heritage Site under the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.

The Fitzroy River Declaration 2016 sets a national standard for native title, as
well as enshrining the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for self-determining our responsibilities as guardians of the Fitzroy River as being fundamental to the management of this globally unique river system. The Declaration sends a strong message to the Federal Government to endorse the EPBC Act (1999) draft Referral Guidelines for the West Kimberley National Heritage Places (2012) as the guiding principles for development within the Fitzroy Catchment.

In the Declaration, Traditional Owners of the Fitzroy Catchment agreed to work together to:

1. Action a process for joint EPBC decision-making on activities in the Fitzroy Catchment;

2. Reach a joint position on fracking in the Fitzroy Catchment;

3. Create a buffer zone for no mining, oil, gas, irrigation and dams in the Fitzroy Catchment;

4. Develop and agree on a Management Plan for the entire Fitzroy Catchment, based on traditional and environmental values;

5. Develop a Fitzroy River Management Body for the Fitzroy Catchment, founded on cultural governance;

6. Complement these with a joint Indigenous Protected Area over the Fitzroy River;

7. Engage with shire and state government to communicate concerns and ensure they follow the agreed joint process;

8. Investigate legal options to support the above, including:
a) strengthen protections under the EPBC Act National Heritage Listing;
b) strengthen protections under the Aboriginal Heritage Act; and c) legislation to protect the Fitzroy Catchment and its unique cultural and natural values.

Please view the 10 minute film 'Mardoowarra’s Right To Life'

(Password: Kimberley)


Phone: +61 408922155


Download this article as a PDF - Guardians Of The Mardoowara (459kbs)

Climate Justice: a call to broaden science with Indigenous knowledge

"..As policy makers, systems, researchers, health professionals and communities grapple with how to respond to the rapidly emerging health threats of climate change, the knowledges and practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be central."

For more on this recently published article please navigate to

Kimberley Traditional Owners unite for the Fitzroy River


14th November 2016

In response to increasing development pressure, Kimberley Traditional Owners have pledged to work together to protect and manage the Fitzroy River and its tributaries, one of the most iconic wild rivers in Western Australia.

During a two-day meeting in Fitzroy Crossing, Traditional Owners agreed upon a Fitzroy River Declaration, aiming to protect the traditional and environmental values that underpin the river’s National Heritage Listing.

The historic declaration identifies eight key steps that Traditional Owners agree are needed to protect and manage the Fitzroy River, including a buffer zone for development, a joint position on fracking, development of a Fitzroy River management plan complemented by an Indigenous Protected Area, and a management body for the river.

Walmajarri Traditional Owner Anthony McLarty said the declaration aims to address concerns of Traditional Owners regarding extensive development proposals currently facing the river and its catchment.

“We know that there are pressures from industry and government to access and use the Fitzroy River, and these pressures have the ability to impact on its many cultural and environmental values,” Mr McLarty said.

“We are also concerned that the cumulative impacts of development along the river will not be managed or considered appropriately by the Western Australian Government.

“The Fitzroy River is one living system. The river gives life and has a right to life, and we are determined to protect it for current and future generations.”

Bunuba Traditional Owner Keith Bedford said the declaration demonstrates that native title rights of Traditional Owners are central to the ongoing management and protection of the entire Fitzroy catchment.

"As native title holders and claimants, Kimberley Aboriginal people respect each other’s autonomy, but we are also committed to working together to better manage and look after the river system,” Mr Bedford said.

Nyikina Mangala Traditional Owner Dr Anne Poelina said the Fitzroy River Declaration sends a clear message to government and industry that Traditional Owners are prepared to stand together for the future of this globally unique living water system.

“We want to see the Fitzroy River and catchment protected all the way from its head to its tail, and we will work together to make sure there are strong measures in place that achieve this goal.

“We invite industry, government, and other stakeholders to work with us in achieving this outcome.”

In 2011 the entire Fitzroy River catchment was added to the National Heritage Listing by the Australian Government because of its exceptional natural and cultural value to the nation, joining other iconic sites such as Uluru and Purnululu National Park. The Fitzroy River is also listed as an Aboriginal Heritage Site under the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act.

The Fitzroy River Declaration sets a national standard for native title rights and the role of Traditional Owners as being fundamental to the management of the environment and informed decision making about development.

For any interview requests please call Monique Paschke, Media Coordinator, on 0408 436 987.

Download the Media Statement - DOCx [ 1.6 MBs ]


Big History, Deep Time and the Age of Humans

In this 'Age of Humans' our species is outstripping the planet's capacity to maintain conditions conducive to many forms of life. We are pushing the Earth System towards rapid, unpredictable and potentially catastrophic state changes beyond the evolutionary experience of both humans and many other species.

Dr. Anne Poelina will present at this event -

Learning About The Liyan


"...In late July, I joined a group of 24 travellers from across Australia to explore the Kimberley for a week. But this wasn’t any tourist trip, we were meeting and staying with Traditional Custodians to hear their stories and understand their fight for land. And what an eye- opening trip it was!" - read more

Great Australian Story

Sending the Dream Out to Dream My Reality.

Here is some of me dreaming my reality and sending the dream out about my heritage, recently published on the website of Great Australian StoryMy question to my family and the broader public is that if there is anyinformation that can be corrected and updated please let me know?

Poelina, Anne. 2016. Blood Line Song Line Part 1. Great Australian Story.

Poelina, Anne. 2016. Blood Line Song Line Part 2. Great Australian Story. 

Building The New Economy

Dr Anne Poelina : Building the new economy: Actionism, enterprise and social and Economic Change


I will be presenting on the following:

Today's economy is built on the foundation of global industrial and financial systems with immense productive capacity, but the extractive nature of this has created extreme income disparity and social injustice and wrought devastation on people, communities and nature.

1. The New Economy must be grounded in Climate Reality and the need to transition from Fossil Fuel and the destruction of people and communities and their connection to maintain the sovereignty of our Australian nations,  land, water, food security.

2. Promote the reality thatAustralian Aboriginal peoples are the traditional custodians of Australian land, water and biodiversity and continue to manage these natural and cultural assets from the beginning of time into modernity.  

3. Much of the development coming into the region promotes external and multi-national interest and does not provide the opportunity for Free Prior and Informed Consent necessary for a social licence for large scale industrial projects. To this end there is limited opportunity to demonstrate the social, cultural and environmental impacts on people, communities, land, water and food security.  Bio-regional investment and planning is nonexistent in the Kimberley especially in reference to investment into the current and future projects promoting Northern Development White Paper and Strategies and Trans Pacific Partnership Treaty!

4. We need to advocate for a regional approach to development (collective wisdom) which includes traditional ecological knowledge, western science and industry partnerships to build "forever" industries. We need to identify and manage existing cultural, environmental and human assets and showcase these to the world.

5. Summary: Our (Nyikina) people have an intergenerational relationship with nature and non-human beings and have existing Indigenous and human rights to development. Weare collaborating with regional, national and international partners to research, plan and develop and protect our land, water and food security and we are exploring science, culture, heritage and environmental assets to build culture and conservation economies on kandri/country. We are looking for partnerships and investment to demonstrate an international climate mitigation for sustainable livelihoods, as a model to save the planet and humanity!


Mobile: 0408922155


Download the Conference Program - [ PDF ]

NRM Funding Success

State Natural and Resource Management Partnership with Madjulla Inc. V & C Semeniuk Research Group and Walalakoo Native Title Body Corporate

Dr Anne Poelina Managing Director of Madjulla Inc in partnership with V & C Semeniuk Research Group were successful in acquiring the State NRM Funding to support the collaboration with the Nyikina Mangala Walalakoo (Native Title) Body Corporate (WBC) proposal to develop a Natural and Cultural Heritage Precinct for Education and Tourism. 

The Kimberley region, listed on the National Heritage List, is located within the Rangelands NRM as a priority region and high value asset. The area is one of the last great wilderness areas of the World. The Nyikina Mangala Native title area covers more than 26,000 sq. km, extending from the mouth of the King Sound below Derby, along the Fitzroy Valley to Noonkanbah and south into the Great Sandy Desert. However, it has been identified that there is a gap in environmental information in this region. Therefore, to evaluate the opportunities and constraints of developing the Natural Heritage and Cultural Heritage Precinct, and obtain information on where to locate trails and infrastructure, as well as maintaining the values of the region by managingmajor environmental threats such as fire, weeds, surface run off and feral animals, there is an urgent need to undertake environmental baseline studies, incorporating Western Science and Indigenous knowledge.

This grant is an important first step in developing a baseline study to describe the cultural, archaeological, and natural values of the Fitzroy River Valley Native Title area. This approach will lead to both science-based planning and management and the capacity to maintain the high values of the site both for their inherent and cultural values and to the development of sustainable Indigenous enterprise opportunities. 

Community members will be targeted for a pathway in land and water management and biodiversity restoration and conservation to manage the inherent Natural and Cultural Heritage Precinct located on this globally unique river country.

Nyikina Cultural App

The Nyikina Cultural App project is on target and we are hoping to have an operational app within a few weeks that anyone can access via the Apple App Store and also for Android users too. This is a just a quick update to assure you we are hard at work in the background on this important community resource.


Kakadu Man


I feel it is a story for our beautiful boab tree families.  Some of the special ones have vibrational energy of healing… this picture the boab nuts are heart shaped!

A beautiful poem by an amazing elder

Bill Neidjie (1989)

Kakadu Man

I love it tree because e love me too.

E watching me same as you

Tree e working with your body, my body,

E working with us.

While you sleep e working.

Daylight, when you walking around e work too.

That tree, grass…..that all like our Father.

Dirt, earth, I sleep with this earth.

Grass…..just like your Brother.

In my blood in my arm this grass.

This dirt for us because we’ll be dead,

Well be going this earth.


This the story now.