Yawuru Traditional Owners in Rubibi (Broome) will work with the WA government to investigate groundwater management on Country.

The deal will see Yawuru people will work with the Department of Water and Environmental regulation to focus on the La Grange Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems project.

It is one of 18 current projects funded by the State Groundwater Investigation Program which aims to improve management of Western Australia’s groundwater resources.

Yawuru PBC director Dean Mathews said the deal followed a long history of water policy reform.

“Yawuru believe in rigorous decision making based on notions of free, prior and informed consent,” he said.

“So having good information, communicated clearly is essential to sort of build trust and facilitate sustainable development on Yawuru Country.

“Having robust data around groundwater and regional hydro geological processes that underpins the help of Yawuru wetlands on Yawuru Country is what it’s all about.

“The project will support Yawuru Traditional Owners in building their skills in collecting, analysing and understanding data to help better manage water systems on their Country.”

Mr Mathews said it was an opportunity to build the capacity of ranger groups.

“Cultural flows to the wetlands are maintained and ensure that the agricultural industry can go ahead,” he said.

“At the same time we’re maintaining and protecting those ecological and cultural assets on Country.”

While there is an opportunity to contribute to the agricultural community, Mathews said the agreement will ensure native title obligations were met.

“We’re still maintaining and upholding those obligations that we do have under native title that have stemmed from Bugarrigarra, our dreaming,” he said.

“How we are going about it is through a collaborative co-management arrangement where we’re building new knowledge and its a two-way science.”

WA Water Minister Dave Kelly said the community was instrumental in analysing groundwater.

“The two-way capacity development built into this agreement will help meet both DWER’s responsibilities, as well as support Yawuru people to fulfil their cultural responsibilities to look after country including culturally significant groundwater and ecosystems,” he said.

“The Yawuru people have a key role in this important investigation of groundwater resources located on their country.”