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Representatives from a wide range of community and government organisations met to hear and discuss latest developments in and about all things ‘Water for the Environment’, at the VEWH’s fifth Victorian Environmental Water Matters Forum.

Those in attendance represented groups from many different interest areas’ including irrigators, anglers, Traditional Owners, scientists, environmental groups and educators showing that water for the environment impacts many different communities.

The day included presentations in the form of a quickfire summary by the VEWH Co-CEOs on the highlights, challenges and achievements from the last two years (of which there were many) and presentations from experts in two very different, but equally significant, topics: climate change and the Treaty process with Aboriginal Victorians.

Professor Ross Thompson from the University of Canberra spoke about the impacts of climate change, drought, bushfires and flood on our waterways. His presentation raised awareness not only of the danger these threats pose, but of the power of water for the environment to make a difference to the ecosystems that they impact.

Following Professor Thompson’s talk the participants heard from Rueben Berg, who spoke about Treaty from his unique perspective of being both a VEWH commissioner and a Member of First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria. His talk was a powerful reminder not just of the significance of the Treaty process, but also of the importance of the other work being done across Victoria to better include Traditional Owners in decision making, especially in the water space.

After hearing from these thought provoking speakers the floor was opened to the attendees, who shared their views and those of the members, networks and communities they represent – about water for the environment, as well as how they felt we could help them by communicating more effectively with these communities. What resulted was a series of robust small group discussions.

Several of the main themes that were discussed include:

  • better telling the story of shared benefits of water for the environment
  • partnering with recreational user groups, local community groups and stakeholders to engage their members and networks
  • the involvement of Traditional Owners in the environmental water program
  • how we can better communicate the outcomes of the work we do
  • improving connections between environmental flows and other actions that government agencies and communities are taking to protect waterways, such as fencing and tree planting.
  • how environmental water managers decide when, when and how to deliver environmental flows
  • how VEWH and community organisations can work together to help us communicate better with their members and networks, and vice versa.

The outcomes of these discussions have been collated and are staff at VEWH are already undertaking the following as a result of the forum:

  • helping the people and organisations who attended the forum to connect with each other, to assist with networking and foster ongoing relationships.
  • developing new communications materials, and amending our existing content, to better communicate the outcomes of environmental watering.
  • building on relationships with Traditional Owner organisations and working with them to embed Traditional Owner and First Nations values and interests in water management.

We look forward to continuing to connect with the many varied organisations who are interested in water for the environment.