Photo: Magali McDuffie
By Dr Anne Poelina*
In the Kimberley region of Northern Australia community, industry and native title leaders are looking for ways to create jobs, share the wealth and secure the future for all Kimberley people.
The cattle industry with the new abattoir on the Great Northern Highway looks promising, and infrastructure for water-for-food projects is coming on line. Pastoralism, agriculture, permaculture and aquaculture, wild harvest and the growing of bush foods and medicines are being promoted across the globe as emerging and growing regional industries.
In promoting the opportunity to have a united plan for diverse industries, we need to have a better understanding of the current and future demands on water, and of how we are going to work together to share the benefits among all the stakeholder groups of our most precious resource.
As a native title holder and a Director on our Body Corporate, I see there is in-principle support for Kimberley people to work together to plan not only sustainable livelihoods but sustainable life.
Following the National Heritage listing of the Fitzroy River (Mardoowarra) in 2011 (photo, above right), I have been developing ideas around a holistic big-landscape plan. A plan to showcase and market the earth science, culture, shared heritage and conservation values of the Mardoowarra would not prevent or preclude other developments.
Issues of land, food and energy security in 2015 bring Kimberley people now to the critical point where we need to sit around the table and plan how we are going to use and manage Kimberley water, now and for the future.
Water stewardship equals good water governance
On 3 November 2015 Kimberley non-government organisations and community members from Derby, Fitzroy Valley and Broome gathered (photo below) to discuss how Kimberley people can have a stronger voice in decisions about the future use and management of rivers and groundwater.
These resources are known to traditional owners and custodians as ‘Living Water’.
The meeting was full of positive energy as people listened and shared water- and land-stories and their connection to the Fitzroy River catchment. Former Murray-Darling Basin Authority executive Jason Alexandra facilitated the workshop, which was attended by representatives from Traditional Owner groups, landholders, conservationists, researchers and community members.