12 November 2020

Collaboration seeks to better understand Indigenous water values

Over the past year, we have been working with the Wollatuka Institute at the University of Newcastle to better understand Indigenous water values in the Lower Hunter region.

This work will support our planning by ensuring better alignment with the values of traditional owners, as well as by learning from the cultures who have lived here successfully for millennia.

The work includes interviews with Aboriginal people from across our region to educate our team on dreaming stories about water, particular places of value, natural markers related to water and climate, and views on specific option types like recycled water, desalination and dams.

This work is the beginning of the conversation on water with Aboriginal people in our region, and the start of an ongoing conversation to ensure the rich knowledge from traditional owners helps to inform our water future.

From this research so far we have learned:

  • Indigenous water values include economic, social and environmental values as well as cultural, and are diverse among the nine Local Aboriginal Land Councils in our region.
  • Indigenous culture and values are not static, but rather weaves traditional knowledge with current values to create new meanings and values. It is vital that we continue to engage in open conversations.
  • There needs to be a strong focus on education and the sharing of stories and dreamings to help limit the impacts of humans on waterways.
  • Traditional knowledge looks at the true ‘base state’ of the environment prior to industrialisation and agriculture, and should be a key knowledge resource to make future development more sustainable.
  • ‘Water is life’ – areas where freshwater is always available often have dreaming stories associated with them, and if these areas were to dry out, this can signify the loss of connection to country and life.
  • Everything has its place – a focus on one site or part of the landscape doesn’t consider the true cultural significance of that area. Water should be considered as part of a larger system.

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