“Water has a significant role in the culture, health and livelihoods of Rainforest Aboriginal People. Our people have a customary obligation to protect the sacred and valuable water…
We Rainforest Aboriginal People are mindful that water is a resource that is in demand now and needs to be preserved for future generations.
It is severely impacted by global warming and in increase of population. We believe that healthy water protection and management is essential for our current and future generations for many social, economic and environmental uses, from watering agricultural crops to washing and cleaning.”
Connection to Water
Traditional Owners’ lifestyle and religious customs and beliefs are closely connected with waterways. Many streams, creeks and rivers have great spiritual significance, are important parts of creation stories and frequently form focal points of Country.
There are also many important places such as traditional camping and living areas along rivers in the region.
Knowledge of the locality and seasonality of rivers, creeks and lagoons has always been important, to know where to hunt and what food plants are available. Clean and healthy waterways are essential for healthy fish populations and the health of Traditional Owners.
Traditional Owner Concerns
There are broad ranging concerns from Traditional Owners about issues such as water pollution – including from agricultural chemicals, urban runoff, mining residues and sediment through the loss of waterways vegetation.
There is real concern about how this pollution is impacting on the fish populations, many of which are important food resources for Traditional Owners.
Traditional Owners have also voiced concern about the increasing pressures on water including the impact of irrigation, dams, culverts and weirs on the breeding cycle of culturally-significant fish and plant species, as well as the impact of lower flow rates on riparian plant species of cultural significance.
The loss of traditional Country that occurs through dam construction is also rarely considered in the water planning process.
Inspiring Traditional Owner Initiatives
Traditional Owner groups across the region are expressing their connection to water through some great initiatives and on-ground works projects.
These initiatives demonstrate the benefits Traditional Owners can bring to the management of our natural resources, but also the ways in which they can benefit – including through employment.
“There are really important places along rivers and creeks for us, and clean healthy water is important to our mob for all fish. We have lots of stories about rivers and creeks on our Country. All this needs to be recognised and respected.” Traditional Owner Workshop – Mossman Gorge, October 2004