Balginjirr: A Special Place on our Home River Country

Dr. Anne Poelina (Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Master of Education, Master of Arts (Indigenous Social Policy), Doctor of Philosophy & Doctor of Health Science (Scholar)) is Managing Director of Madjulla Incorporated. She is a Nyikina Warwa Traditional Custodian from the Mardoowarra, Lower Fitzroy River in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia. Her childhood growing up in Broome, Derby and out on country has given her the love and respect for the diversity of Indigenous people, kinship and culture. She is a 2011 Peter Cullen Fellow for Water Leadership and is a signatory to the Redstone Statement that she helped draft at the 1st International Summit on Indigenous Environmental Philosophy in 2010. In 2011, she was the Inaugural Chair of the National First Peoples Water Engagement Council and later the same year she was elected onto the Broome Shire Council and became Deputy Shire President in her first term of office.  

In 2014, she was elected as Director and recently Deputy Chair of the Walalakoo Prescribed Body Corporate responsible for the integrated management of 27,000 square kilometres of Nyikina and Mangala Native Title lands and waters. In 2017, she was awarded a Laureate from the Women’s World Summit Foundation (Geneva). In 2018 she was elected Chair of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council. She is an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow with Notre Dame University and a Research Fellow with Northern Australia Institute Charles Darwin University. Her current work explores the entrepreneurial ‘New Economy’ opportunities for Indigenous people along the National Heritage Listed Fitzroy River, in relation to green collar jobs in diverse, science, culture, heritage and conservation economies. Dr. Poelina champions the need to include traditional ecological knowledge, First Law and the rights of nature to the solutions for planetary health and wellbeing. See website:

Immersed Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

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 ]

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 

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 -

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.




22nd October 2016, Banco Court, Brisbane

AELA is hosting a one-day Rights of Nature Tribunal in Brisbane on 22nd October 2016.  This citizen’s tribunal will hear cases presented by citizens and Earth lawyers concerned about the destruction of ecosystems and the Earth community in Australia.  Australia’s RON Tribunal is a ‘regional chamber’ of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal.  Information about the International Tribunal can be found on this website: 

As a ‘citizen’s tribunal’ the RON Tribunal is not a government endorsed activity nor do any of its activities, decisions or recommendations have the force of government-sanctioned law.  The Tribunal’s aims are as follows: to provide an important forum for citizens of Australia to speak on behalf of the Earth community; to challenge the current legal system’s failure to protect the health of the natural world; to highlight the role that government agencies and corporations play a part in destroying the Earth community and to recommend what citizens would like to see happen, to protect and restore Australia’s precious ecosystems and wider Earth community.

The Tribunal will be conducted seriously and with great respect to the venue (Banco Court) and all participants and cases.  The Tribunal will be run according to rules developed for such Tribunals by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.  A panel of judges will hear the cases and make recommendations. Citizens, scientific experts and legal experts from around Australia will be invited to participate.

At this stage, AELA is planning that the Tribunal will hear depositions from citizens and Earth lawyers, to admit their cases to the Tribunal for further deliberation during late 2016 and early 2017.  The cases that AELA’s RON Tribunal expects to hear are as follows:

  • Mardoowarra/Fitzroy River (Western Australia) vs the Federal and WA Governments. 
    This case will be presented by traditional custodians of the Mardoowarra/Fitzroy River and will include claims that the River must have its legal rights recognised, in accordance with the traditional custodians’ ‘first laws’ and the rights of nature - Dr. Anne Poelina
  • The Atmospheric Commons vs Australia Government and the Fossil Fuel Industry. 
    This case will challenge Australia’s inaction on climate change and will feature some of Australia’s leading climate scientists and civil society climate advocates.
  • The Forests of Australia vs Federal and State Governments. 
    This case will be presented by forest protectors from Tasmania, East Gippsland, Queensland, Western Australia and Northern NSW, challenging the legality of native logging across the continent.
  • The Great Artesian Basin vs Federal & State Governments and Coal Seam Gas Industry. This case will hear evidence from scientists, community members and civil society organisations such as Lock the Gate, about the contamination and depletion of Australia’s precious groundwater.
  • Earth Defenders vs the Tasmanian, NSW and WA Governments.
    This case will challenge the treatment of environmental protectors and Earth advocates, under new legislation aimed at suppressing peaceful protest activity in various Australian jurisdictions.
  • Watching brief: The Great Barrier Reef vs Australian and Queensland Governments.
    The Tribunal will receive an update on the status of the Great Barrier Reef, which was the first case that Australia took to the International Rights of Nature Tribunal. Concerns for the Reef have heightened in light of the 3rd April announcement by the Queensland Government that it has approved the mining leases for the Adani Carmichael Mine.

To support the Tribunal and promote cultural engagement with the emerging movement around the Rights of Nature, AELA has also created a major Earth Arts program for 2016, simply called ‘RONA16’.  AELA’s intention is to blend the creative re-interpretation of environmental governance with cultural responses to the rights of the natural world to flourish. More information about RONA16 can be found on this website: 

Nyikina Cultural Centre

Through his (story) the mapping, division and forcible alienation of Aboriginal people from their country and land has meant that many aspects of knowledge has been lost to the repeat and insidious intention of such action.

The concept of the Nyikina Cultural Centre is as all cultural centres are for Aboriginal communities and their relatedness with travellers, associated services and as a service to protect country and culture. Specifically, our daily activity and the information we generate as users of the internet can assist in the establishment, funding, development and growth of the Nyikina Cultural Centre beginning as simply as 'place based' naming.

Note: This is a concept and serves the purpose of building awareness as to how important it is that we strategically point to country when growing our connections with others. The principals of geo-tagging information is the main driver of this post.

This is how you can assist in bringing this concept to a physical reality:

  • Social Media - geotag all posts that relate in any way to Aboriginal news or community activity to the Nyikina Cultural Centre, cnr Derby Highway and Derby Gibb River Road, Derby 6728 Western Australia  -17.344403, 123.665855 ....there maybe many more "hubs" and associated centres that the community is in control of.
  • Connect - Join the Nyikina Cultural Centre group on Facebook and tell us what you know about that location and it's significance for you and your community - what other ideas do you have to grow awareness of what is needed on country?:
  • Maps - build maps personally that use the internet to point to that geolocation  at the Nyikina Cultural Centre, cnr Derby Highway and Derby Gibb River Road, Derby 6728 Western Australia  -17.344403, 123.665855 and 'pin' digital artefacts such as photos to that location
  • Attribution - in papers, documents, books, email correspondence and in all other activities that are transmitted via the digital domain and Internet, consider how you can include the following in that transcript.

Nyikina Cultural Centre, cnr Derby Highway and Derby Gibb River Road, Derby 6728 Western Australia  -17.344403, 123.665855

Over time all of this activity generates an interest in a location that will soon be known as the main reference point for the Nyikina Cultural Centre as endorsed by the Nyikina community in derby and supported in kind and activity by members of Madjulla Inc.

Geolocation specific activity builds awareness and knowledge where largely information posted to the internet benefits the organisations who monitor our personal and collective activity only. This initiative however proactively creates interest via self generated activity that then brings about positive change and awareness - actionist principles at work!


"...Loongkoonan only took up painting in her mid-90s, embracing it with such originality, confidence and dedication her work soon found its way into museums and private collections."

She only took up the paint brush in her-mid 90s.

And now, at what she calls the “still very lively” age of 105, Aboriginal Australian artist Loongkoonan is being honored with the first international exhibition of her work, minutes from the White House.

The woman who inspired the show Yimardoowarra: Artist of the River is an indigenous elder and matriarch from the west Kimberley region in Western Australia — Nyikina country or the country of the river, named the Fitzroy by European colonizers.

Read more - New York Times