Research spotlight shines west

Six new Northern Hub research projects in the Kimberley’s west aim to inform sustainable development decisions in the unique region.

The projects focus on bridging research gaps and developing new tools and partnerships to inform practical solutions to the challenges raised by expanding economic development in the Fitzroy catchment. Hub Leader Michael Douglas says the new research will facilitate sound decision making:

“The Fitzroy River is a resource of immense environmental, economic and cultural value. Its pools and floodplain are home to a rich diversity of native species, and support the grazing industry. The river has great significance for Indigenous people. It’s also a hot spot for tourists and locals looking to camp and fish”, Professor Douglas said.

“To manage and protect the river’s existing values we need an understanding of how they might respond to proposed development.”

The six new research projects focussed on the Fitzroy cover multi-objective planning, identifying environmental water requirements, improving knowledge of Indigenous water needs, knowledge brokering for Indigenous land management, and threats to savanna riparian zones. They will address key questions such as:

  • How much water is needed to support the river’s fish and plant species and when?
  • How much water is needed to support Indigenous cultural values of the river and when?
  • How might the river’s environmental and cultural assets be impacted by future development and how can we minimise potential threats?
  • How can we plan for land and water resource use in ways that meet the objectives of development, conservation and culture in the Fitzroy catchment?

Professor Douglas and Hub Knowledge Broker Clare Taylor recently participated in the Kimberley Healthy Country Forum to hear from and discuss ideas surrounding the new projects with Traditional Owners, ranger groups and Kimberley Land Council Staff. The forum, organised by the Kimberley Land Council, was hosted by Balanggarra and Nyaliga Traditional Owners at Home Valley Station.

“The recent forum was a fantastic opportunity to hear first-hand from Indigenous groups and other participants about caring for country efforts in the Kimberley,” Professor Douglas said.

The research will be done in close collaboration with land managers and Traditional Owners in the Fitzroy River catchment and with the Western Australian Government. The projects will also contribute to the Australian Government’s North Australian Water Resource Assessment project, led by CSIRO.

You can read an overview of the projects here or find more information on individual projects here.

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The Fitzroy River catchment, photo Michael Douglas

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