The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office’s on-ground science program, called Flow-MER, brings together scientists from some of Australia’s leading universities and research institutions. These scientists monitor, evaluate and study how plants and animals respond to water for the environment.
Thanks to the data collected, CEWO have an understanding of the plants, animals and processes of the Murray–Darling Basin. Through science, CEWO has learned what it takes to get trees to flourish, where turtles go in dry times, and the importance of rivers as highways for fish movement.
The CEWO is providing funding to scientists to work with Traditional Owners so that Aboriginal knowledge can help inform how water for the environment can benefit rivers and wetlands. The aim is to build meaningful relationships based on two-way knowledge sharing between researchers, government and local communities.
Researchers and First Nations groups are working together across the Murray-Darling Basin, from story-telling and knowledge sharing of Yellowbelly in the northern basin, biological survey work in the Lachlan River system, native fish larvae monitoring in the Goulburn River to turtle research in the Edward/Kolety-Wakool river System. All of these interactions are unique and are enriching the knowledge base for healthy rivers and healthy communities.
Turtle research is being undertaken in collaboration with Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre. Photo: Liticia Ross
The Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre is a Traditional Owner organisation in Deniliquin NSW, which aims to preserve traditional knowledge for future generations.
Through Flow-MER, members from the Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre worked with researchers from Charles Sturt University to examine how flows of environmental water impact turtle movement and condition.
Over the summer of 2019-20, the research team undertook to trap, handle and monitor turtle populations water in six wetlands along the Edward/Kolety-Wakool river system.
Liticia Ross, from the Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre noted she got involved in the project as she wanted to be out on Country and was interested to see what goes into turtle monitoring.
As a result of the project, local community members learnt new skills “I learnt how to measure and record turtles, that they can travel a fair distance and move fast” Tracy Hamilton, Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre.
Due to the involvement of local people in the project, new skills and knowledge will be passed onto future generations. “One thing I will take away from this experience that I didn’t know before is to identify the different kinds of turtles, but what I have learnt will be passed onto the next generation” Liticia said.
In total, 143 broad-shelled turtles, 139 eastern long-necked turtles, and 209 Murray River turtles were caught, with trapping continuing in November 2020.
Of the project, Liticia Ross stated “I feel that we all have different knowledge of country that we were able to share and learn with each other which I feel was a great contribution to the project”.
Tracey also noted she enjoyed going out on country and learning.
The local knowledge and experience of the Yarkuwa fieldworkers has driven the project’s success, while providing an opportunity to learn new skills and share knowledge now and into the future.
These case studies and more from other environmental water holders can be found on the MDBA website:
- 2018 - 19: Rivers, the veins of our country. Ten case studies of First Nations involvement in managing water for the environment in the Murray-Darling Basin, 2018-19
- 2019 - 20: Rivers, the veins of our Country. Ten case studies of First Nations involvement in managing water for the environment in the Murray-Darling Basin, 2019-20