Watering of the lower Murray wetlands supports cultural values such as traditional food sources and medicines and important species, and it provides opportunities for teaching, learning and storytelling.
On proposed 2022-23 watering of the lower Murray wetlands, Mallee CMA engaged with the First People of the Millewa-Mallee Aboriginal Corporation (FPMMAC) comprised of Latji Latji and Ngintait Traditional Owners (Traditional Owners from Hattah to the South Australian border). Mallee CMA also engaged with Latji Latji Mumthelang and representatives from Culpra Millee and Munatunga.
Traditional Owner groups invited to discussions included Tati Tati, Wamba Wemba, Wadi Wadi, Weki Weki and Nyeri Nyeri.
Tati Tati wish to express their lack of representation in no way is a reflection their lack of interest or cultural responsibility in caring for wetlands on Tati Tati Country. It does, however, reflect Tati Tati’s deliberate shift to only engaging organisations that demonstrate a commitment to upholding cultural safety. Tati Tati will continue to look to the future to partner with organisations transitioning to First Nations empowerment – not engagement.
Discussions covered a range of options for how environmental flows could be delivered in 2022-2023 and what the traditional ecological needs are in the current climate. Discussions also covered how the planning process works, as some community members had not participated in previous years. The values, knowledge and concerns identified in these discussions have supported the Mallee CMA’s planning for wetland watering across the lower Murray region.
Elders from the Nyah Floodplain region (Culpra Millee) said that watering creeks across the floodplain is good for their communities, enabling many generations to get out on Country while water is in the creeks. They said they would like to be involved in planning for water for the environment from the start and all the way through: from before water is pumped to when water flows in the creeks. Opportunities to foster intergenerational education and the passing down of cultural knowledge are also very important.
Increasing the involvement of Traditional Owners in the planning and management of water for the environment and ultimately providing opportunities to progress towards self-determination within the environmental watering program is a core commitment of the VEWH and its agency partners. This is reinforced by a range of legislative and policy commitments, including the Water Act 1989, the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework, the 2016 Water for Victoria and in some cases, agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010.
Where Traditional Owners are more deeply involved in the planning and/or delivery of environmental flows for a particular site, their contribution is acknowledged in Table 5.2.14 with an icon. The use of this icon is not intended to indicate that these activities are meeting all the needs of Traditional Owners but is incorporated in the spirit of valuing their contribution and indicating progress towards deeper involvement.
Watering planned and/or delivered in partnership with Traditional Owners to support cultural values and uses
Robertson Creek is an area of high cultural significance that is being degraded as drying vegetation dies and wind erodes the landscape. The First People of the Millewa-Mallee Aboriginal Corporation is undertaking a program of restoration and protection work at the site. An environmental flow was delivered to the creek in spring 2020-21 and again in 2021-22 to complement the restoration and protection objectives. This has helped improve the condition of trees and shrubs and helped return and protect cultural values which are important for community learning, teaching and overall wellbeing. An environmental flow is planned for Robertson Creek in 2022-23 in all scenarios except drought. This will build on outcomes from previous watering by further improving the condition of the vegetation and increasing protection against wind. It will also support the revegetation of native trees, shrubs and grasses.