Clare, Misko and I recently returned from a 2-week, 5400km trip through the Murray-Darling Basin for “Dialogues on Country” (DOC). We have been developing this trip since the start of the year as part of a team of volunteers with Engineers Without Borders (EWB
) (see earlier posts). It was really exciting to see it take form and come to life as our two 4WDs headed north at 6am on Saturday July 31st, bound for Murra Murra station in south-west Queensland.
We engaged with Indigenous communities throughout the Basin, with most of our time spent with the Kooma (Gwamu) Nation in Queensland on the Nebine River and Ngarrindjeri Nation in South Australia in the Coorong. Through many open and honest discussions, we gained a solid understanding of Indigenous history, life and culture; their knowledge and values around land and water; current challenges they face and visions for a shared future. We were struck by the strength, perseverance and forgiveness of the communities we spent time with, and were touched by their generosity and openness.
We also engaged with other stakeholders in the Basin, including farmers, the Lower Murray Darling River Catchment Management Authority, engineering consultants, park rangers, farm workers, and a tour of Cubbie Station (with a Sydney Harbour sized water storage that has to be seen to be believed!!).
The trip highlighted the importance of spending time with Aboriginal people “on country” so that we may begin to understand Aboriginal culture and see the land and water as their people do. While you can spend countless hours in an office discussing Indigenous issues, we found that it is not until you really spend time on country that you can actually “get it”. And it is only when you reach that level of greater understanding that meaningful discussion can commence.
You can check out the postcards we sent during the trip, noting small thoughts, observations and learnings along the way here
It is now our challenge to undertake Objective 3 of the DOC initiative:
Determine ways to embed our gained understanding in land and water practices, management and policy.
We are also developing a model for the tour to run annually and open to others to experience and learn as we did. Contact us for details!