Water Plans need engagement with Aboriginal people

Murray River Basin
Murray River Basin

Megan Roberts ABC Riverland 3 November, 2010

Water is not just a part of everyday living but a part of dreaming and spiritual and cultural existence.

The Chair of the First Peoples' Water Engagement Council, says water issues across Australia have enormous impacts on Aboriginal people.

Phil Duncan spoke at the National Indigenous Land and Sea Management Conference in Broken Hill.

Mr Duncan says water is not just a part of everyday living, but a part of dreaming and spiritual and cultural existence.

He says Aboriginal people need to be involved in environmental decisions not shut out.

"If you encapsulate Aboriginal people into that you are taking our identify back to prior to 67 when we were classified as part of the flora and fauna."

"We are not a part of the environment we exist we are human beings," he said.

"You cannot take years and years of battles to get to the 67 referendum to change it and then have a progression on where we are today, you just cannot take us back to that."

Mr Duncan says the Murray Darling Basin Plan was also a key issue discussed.

He says there needs to be more engagement with stakeholders and key Aboriginal bodies throughout the Basin community.

"If you look at the areas, and the Greater Western Areas of the basin the greater population is Aboriginal people."

"We are the ones staying in these communities, we are going to be the ones making a life out of it when everybody else packs up and goes," he said.

"There are a whole range of issues facing the Basin Plan but from an Aboriginal perspective I do not think there has been a transparent or accountable engagement process."

Source: www.nwc.gov.au

First Peoples Water Engagement Council (FPWEC)

Clockwise from back: Bradley Moggridge, Bryan Wyatt, Phil Duncan, George Cooley, Cheryl Buchanan, Dr Anne Poelina and Lillian Moseley.

The 2009 Biennial Assessment found that it is rare for Indigenous water requirements to be explicitly included in water plans, and most jurisdictions are not yet engaging Indigenous people effectively in water planning processes.

The First Peoples' Water Engagement Council (FPWEC) is a new group which will provide advice to the Commission on national water issues. The initial meeting of the ongoing First Peoples' Water Engagement Council will be held in Canberra on 7 June 2010.

The members, appointed by NWC Chair and CEO Ken Matthews are:

   Cheryl Buchanan, (South East Qld)
   George Cooley (Lake Eyre Basin)
   Phil Duncan (NSW Aboriginal Land Council)
   Bradley Moggridge (Northern NSW)
   Lillian Moseley (NSW)
   Anne Poelina (Kimberley WA)
   Bryan Wyatt (Goldfields WA)
   The Council is expected to meet at least three times each year.

In establishing the ongoing Council, the Commission were greatly assisted by an interim Council. The interim Council established the selection process for the ongoing Council, established draft Terms of Reference and provided invaluable advice to the Commission. Interim Council members, David Collard, Evelyn Crawford, Kevin Giles, Nolan Hunter, Katie Kiss and Monica Morgan were always keen to provide support and advice and represented Indigenous people with pride and professionalism.

Cheryl Buchanan, a Traditional Owner from southern Queensland, is a current and active member of the Murray Darling Basin Authority Basin Communities Committee and its related Indigenous Water Sub-Committee. In this position she is involved in the Murray Darling Basin Plan, including drafting water plans and engaging communities. Cheryl also brings extensive experience in organisations having a focus on environment, water and Indigenous engagement.

George Cooley is a senior member of the Aboriginal community, who is widely known throughout South Australia. Over the last 35 years, he has served on many councils, boards and community groups. He currently lives in Coober Pedy and is one of the six Indigenous members on the Lake Eyre Basin Community Advisory Committee.

Phil Duncan is a member of the Gamilaroi nation from North Western New South Wales. He brings an extensive background and membership on many committees and councils including the Murray Darling Basin Authority Demonstration Reach Steering Committee, the New South Wales State Water Management Advisory Committee, the Natural Resources Advisory Council, the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee and the Aboriginal Water Trust.

Bradley Moggridge is a Murri man from the Kamilaroi Nation in North-West New South Wales. He currently works with CSIRO Land and Water, and has chosen a profession in environmental hydrogeology. He is involved in a number of committees that relate to Indigenous water issues, natural resource management, science and communities. Most recently he was a member of the Joint Steering Committee for the Review of the National Water Quality Management Strategy and a member of the Steering Committee for the Aboriginal Water Use Capacity Project through the Department of the Environment and Climate Change.

Lillian Moseley has been actively involved in water reform and water planning processes for approximately 16 years. Her work has included facilitating and delivering Aboriginal Cultural awareness training to newly established Catchment Management Boards and acting as an Aboriginal representative on North Coast Water Management Committee where she was responsible for creating a culturally appropriate process to actively engage and consult with Aboriginal communities in the water management and water sharing processes. She has also co-authored a book to provide support to Aboriginal representatives on water management committees.

Dr Anne Poelina is a traditional owner from the Lower Region of the Fitzroy River. She has been working in land, water and natural resource management for the past 10 years advocating for Indigenous rights in water, water governance and the health of the Fitzroy River and Catchment. She is the current Chair of the Mary River Group and Deputy Chair of the Indigenous Water Policy Group with NAILSMA. She also has international networks with other Indigenous people who are advocating on the rights of Indigenous peoples to protect and manage their resources.

Bryan Wyatt brings significant expertise in native title and Indigenous consultation. He has been the CEO of a native title organisation in the Goldfields region for over 10 years. Bryan has wide ranging networks throughout Australia and a keen interest in ensuring that Indigenous peoples' rights are protected through the water planning process.