In a first for Victoria, an environmental flow release into the Glenelg River has supported both environmental outcomes as well as Aboriginal cultural values.
Supporting Aboriginal values is a key element of Victoria’s new water plan, Water for Victoria.
Water For Victoria, the first comprehensive state-wide water plan in over 10 years, will improve water security for communities, protect Victorian jobs and agriculture, recognise Aboriginal water values and improve environmental health.
The Plan establishes an Aboriginal Water Program to help identify Aboriginal values and uses of water and help build the capacity of the sector to ensure the involvement of Traditional Owners.
Water released from Rocklands Reservoir has improved river health and reduced salinity, at the same time as helping to sustain the health of Country for Traditional Owners who have a continuing connection to the river system.
Aboriginal water values for the Glenelg River are being identified as part of a two-year partnership project involving Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, Barengi Gadjin Land Council and Glenelg Hopkins CMA.
Making adjustments to planned environmental water releases to better protect Aboriginal values at culturally significant locations, such as Harrow, is an important outcome of the project.
Environmental benefits of the release will also be monitored by the Arthur Rylah Institute who have fitted estuary perch and tupong with electronic tags to track their migration up the Glenelg River. In another first for the region, time-lapse cameras are recording the extent of flow and environmental response.
The timing of the environmental flow was planned to coincide with the March long-weekend. The release will freshen water quality for native plants and animals and improve useability and amenity for river users.
This includes people attending the Johnny Mullagh Cricket Competition, an annual event held in Harrow that recognises the first all-Aboriginal cricket team which toured internationally.
By improving the health of rivers environmental watering provides benefits to everyone in the community by increasing opportunities for activities such as fishing, boating and birdwatching.
Quotes attributable to the Minister for Water Lisa Neville
“Aboriginal values at Harrow supported by environmental water releases include cultural heritage sites, particularly scarred trees and native plants which are sources of traditional foods and medicines.”
“Respect for the role of water in Aboriginal cultural heritage is a great example of Water for Victoria and our self-determination agenda in action.”
Quotes attributable to Gunditjmara Traditional Owner Denis Rose
“The Glenelg River Towards Cultural Flows project between Traditional Owners and the GHCMA has been great. Although there is more work to be done, it has been a starting point for giving Traditional Owners a voice in water management on Gunditjmara Country.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020