First Nations peoples of the Murray-Darling Basin are providing critical traditional water knowledge to ensure sustainable environmental water and land management.

The New South Wales Government has purchased water for the environment so that it may be used to improve the overall health of rivers, wetlands and floodplains.

Director of Aboriginal Partnerships at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) Mark Foreman spoke to the precedent this collaboration represented.

“These collaborations — and the great results we are seeing because of them — ensure that the planning and monitoring of environmental water will continue to involve guidance from First Nations, wherever possible,” said Foreman.

Foreman added this guidance would be critical to addressing environmental needs.

“Calling on the knowledge and needs of First Nations in planning environmental watering and assessing its impacts is important for all involved,” said Foreman.

“We can make better decisions that see the water making the best difference it can, while at the same time restoring and supporting significant cultural sites of great importance to First Nation Peoples.

“First Nations organisation, the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN) and the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) have also assisted with this plan.”

NBAN Chair Fred Hooper said this was the first time that annual environmental watering priorities had included First Nations objectives and outcomes.

“It is our peoples’ rights under international law to be involved in water planning, delivery and monitoring of water for the environment, and I’m excited to see what more is to come,” said Hooper.

Acting Chair of MLDRIN Grant Rigney pointed to the clear benefits for First Nations people.

“Nation groups are benefiting from a greater connection and reconnection to Country alongside the continuation of important cultural practices which have existed for thousands of years,” said Rigney.

Foreman said these benefits included wildlife and plant recovery.

“At Dharriwaa (Narran Lakes) in northwest New South Wales, cultural insights about plants, animals and artefacts helped to guide watering events,” he said.

“On the Goulburn River near Seymour in Victoria, collaborations between the Taungurung Traditional Owners and the Goulburn Broken CMA led to the restoration of the sacred Horseshoe Lagoon — a site of cultural significance as a women’s place.

“Water also saw the return of birds and other animals.”

By Rachel Stringfellow