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Traditional Owners and catchment managers in the West Gippsland region are working together to learn from each other about cultural values and how these relate to water for the environment.

The partnership between the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) and West Gippsland CMA has been ongoing for many years, and in 2017-18 they took a big step forward.

Representatives of the two organisations travelled to southwest Victoria to learn from local catchment managers and Traditional Owners – and each other – about practical ways they can work together.

The journey began in Gippsland, with a ‘water for the environment 101’ session that included information from the CMA about environmental flows and a joint discussion of how this relates to cultural values in the Latrobe, Thompson and Macalister rivers which flow through Gunaikurnai country.

After this session, CMA staff and GLaWAC representatives travelled to south-west Victoria to meet with Barengi Gadjin and Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners and staff from Glenelg Hopkins CMA, to find out how they have been working together through the Glenelg River Towards Cultural Flows project.

As they travelled down the Glenelg River, the Traditional Owners and catchment managers from Gippsland learnt from their western Victorian counterparts about their world leading project, and how it has been integrating Aboriginal values and traditional knowledge into environmental water planning and delivery. It has also given Traditional Owners the opportunity to develop their knowledge and capacity to participate in water management.

The CMA and GLaWAC representatives returned to Gippsland enthused about how they can achieve these goals in their river systems. This is already bearing fruit in the second half of 2018, as the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is supporting GLaWAC to do an Aboriginal Waterways Assessment in the Latrobe River, its tributaries and the lower Latrobe wetlands. This is part of the Latrobe Valley Rehabilitation Strategy. This work will also inform the review of the flow recommendations for the system – a project being run by West Gippsland CMA.

Group of Traditional Owners and CMA staff

Traditional Owners from Gunditj Mirring, Barengi Gadjin Land Council, Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation and CMA staff, by Minna Tom