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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Our Water, Our Country

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Aboriginal people believe that its our river. It belonged to the Aboriginal people.

Were the traditional owners of this water. We share it with all the community.

A lot of systems in place these days, the different governments, the different agencies,

the different jurisdictions and all the different responsibilities, it allaboriginal people

dont think like that. Its hard for them to comprehend who they need to speak to. There

hasnt really been opportunities for traditional knowledge to walk alongside it because, you

know, we know how to look after country.

Hello, My name is Lillian Moseley, and I am a Dunghutti woman from the Mid North Coast,

Kempsey. This resource package was designed to help communities to make the most of these

opportunities and to exercise their rights within the water sharing framework. I would

like to wish you all the best in utilising this resource package, Our water, Our Country.

Our creator, Baiame, was doing his deeds, making different things around this part of

the world. Then he came across a mob of people at Brewarrina who were hungry and hardly had

any water. So Baiame created and drew a plan of the fish traps for them. He then taught

them how to call the rain, and after the rain subsided there were thousands of fish, coming

up through the fishtraps. So that is how Baiame gave us our water. He made it for us. Our

Dreamtime means a lot to us. His footprints are still in the rocks down there. Its

something that belongs to us forever, in our dreaming and in our future. Its our life,

and it will always be our life.

You look at our policies when the old people used to say look after the water. Now thats

a treasure of the earth. It was given to us in our myth and legend.

The springs are protected through law because thats their drinking hole, but if its

contaminated, there goes the drinking hole. Theres strong laws and customs for those

drinking holes to protect them.

I just want to speak briefly about the days before carp, the days before the weir, and

the days before large pumps were on the water. We grew up and that river was our playground.

We got food from there such as fish and crayfish. We swam in the river, we washed in the river,

and when the pumps break down we bath in it.

Its a day out for our people, take the kids up fishing, swimming, surviving off the

water, and camp up the rivers, all the families go there and it was beautiful water to drink,

fresh, but now its not the same, its not flowing the way it should be.

The fact that we had a resource that we used, and Mum showed us how to catch mussels, and

Dad taught us how to swim, how to feel for mussels in the mud and throw them up on the

bank and cook them. So those sorts of things were actually taught by us.

Prior to whites coming to Australia, water in Australia was part of the landscape, part

of aboriginal communities and their culture. There was a very strong affiliation between

the way aborigines lived and water. It was part of their day to day life. It dictated

how they lived and where they lived. When whites came to Australia things were changed

dramatically, and particularly after the declaration of Federation in 1901 where water was made

the responsibility of the stats. We saw a radical shift in the way water was managed,

the priority of water to be development of our agriculture, and for the first ninety

years of of the 20th century that was the priority for water management. It was to get

water out on the farms, to provide opportunities for the farming community, to grow crops,

to generate wealth, to generate jobs and industry. That changed significantly in the early 1990s

where all of Eastern Australia went through a very severe drought. In some cases it was

the worst drought in history. We saw the Darling River at that time have a 1,000km toxic blue-green

algal slick where you couldnt touch the water, cattle couldnt drink the water,

kids couldnt swim in the water. We saw a lot of our coastal rivers for the first

time in living memory dry up. The Macleay River, near Kempsey, stopped flowing, which

had never happened before. We saw salt start to appear in the Riverina which hadnt been

seen before, because our groundwater was getting contaminated. We saw red gums on the Murray

River dying off because there was not enough water to sustain them. And at that time our

governments, states and commonwealth, got together and saidweve got to radically

change the way we manage water. Its not an infinite resource. We need to do things

in a more sustainable way. We need to look at getting some balance, some sharing between

industry and the environment.’ It was a real institutional shock, I think, that it

had got so bad, and we were supposed to be the managers, experts, and things had just

crashed. So the water reforms were about providing water initially for the environment, and then

some sharing between the consumptive users, the irrigators, the towns and industry, mining

and so on. And at the same time there was a willingness from government to encourage

aboriginal involvement in water planning. To look at including aboriginal values in

water planning, to look at this concept of cultural flows, to look at opportunities for

aboriginal communities for commercial use of water.

The Description of Our Water, Our Country