Yesterday’s signing of an agreement between Goulburn-Murray Water and the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation was a significant day for a few reasons.
As Australia’s largest rural water corporation, managing about 70 per cent of Victoria’s stored water resources, G-MW has a large footprint across the Goulburn Valley and beyond.
As such it has enormous responsibility to ensure the protection of the natural environment for future generations.
And while there are many stakeholders across G-MW’s footprint — from farmers to residents, industry, tourist facilities and business — there is none with more cultural and spiritual investment in the region than the Indigenous population.
Now that voices are being raised across the country and particularly here in Victoria demanding that our indigenous citizens be given a larger say in government, yesterday’s signing was a particularly timely and welcome move.
The management of our waterways and riverine environments have competing demands — and in the past the exploitation of our environment has not always recognised the wealth of knowledge held by indigenous people.
The removal of snags and wood debris from our rivers is a case in point.
Millions of fallen trees and branches were deliberately removed from our rivers over decades in large-scale de-snagging operations.
This is now accepted as a misconceived exercise which has resulted in loss of valuable habitat for fish and other native wildlife and protection of river banks.
Indigenous people knew this would happen, but were not consulted.
Yesterday’s agreement is hopefully a sign of further inclusion by large corporations of indigenous advice and knowledge when it comes to future environmental projects.
The $2billion Connections Project affects far more than industry and agriculture.
It has major implications for the protection of culturally significant sites.
Only our indigenous peoples have direct knowledge of these sites, and so it is vital they are consulted and listened to when plans are being made for major changes to our landscape and infrastructure.
We congratulate G-MW for being inclusive, and for being wise enough to tap into this vast store of inherited knowledge.
Future generations and our precious rivers and wildlife will be eternally grateful.