Indigenous water needs for the Fitzroy River

Aboriginal people have a long-standing and strong connection to the Fitzroy River. The river forms an integral part of their way of life and is the foundation of various social activities such as family interactions, ceremonies and hunting and gathering. Native title has been recognised over many parts of the Fitzroy River catchment and this guarantees protection of rights to hunt, fish, and gather other foods and resources.

With increased interest in the expansion of irrigated agriculture in the catchment, these important values could be put at risk. Understanding how they could be impacted by increased development and incorporating new information into water planning rules will reduce that risk.

This research aims to improve knowledge of Indigenous water requirements within the Fitzroy River catchment and to inform plans for future water use. It will identify customary uses of water and waterways, reveal links between Indigenous values, practices and water regimes, and elicit knowledge, as well as objectives for the future management of land and water resources. Emphasis will also be placed on advancing the field of Indigenous water planning by trialling social assessment methods and showing the value of community participation in environmental flow assessments. It is hoped that the information generated from this project will be of use to Indigenous ranger groups, native title organisations and the Kimberley Land Council, and to state and federal government Natural Resource Management agencies.

The project will follow four major steps:

  1. Facilitate Indigenous participation;
  2. Draw on current information about environmental water requirements and develop initial conceptual models that will link the social and ecological needs and goals of Indigenous people with the potential impacts of water resource development;
  3. Target new research with communities to determine water requirements of environmental assets and cultural features valued by Indigenous people (such as fish, pools in the river and riverside vegetation); and
  4. Revise conceptual models with new information and make recommendations on ways of meeting and monitoring Indigenous water requirements in water plans and other NRM plans and programs.

The project will be focused on the Fitzroy River catchment in Western Australia. Most activity will be concentrated around Fitzroy Crossing and the lower Fitzroy catchment.

Fitzroy River catchment

The research will led by Associate Professor Sue Jackson from Griffith University. Dr Jackson will be supported by researchers from the University of Western Australia and the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University.

Contact
Sue Jackson, Griffith University
sue.jackson@griffith.edu.au or visit  www.griffith.edu.au/environment-planning-architecture/australian-rivers-institute/

 

  • Traditional Resources. Photo: Glenn Campbell
  • Fitzroy River. Photo: Michael Douglas
  • Bush tucker. Photo: Michael Lawrence-Taylor
  • Fitzroy River. Photo: Michael Douglas
  • Fitzroy River. Photo: Michael Douglas
  • Irrigated agriculture. Photo: Michael Douglas