Traditional Owners Unite for the River

Posted on June 19, 2018

Today marked a historic moment for Traditional Owners along the Fitzroy River. 

Indigenous leaders from the newly formed Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council travelled to Perth to call for a stronger role in deciding the future of the river.

The Council met with a high-level delegation from Government and was recognized by Premier Mark McGowan in a statement to Parliament.

New river council will give traditional owners in the Kimberley a unified voice

The Council seeks to advance the Fitzroy River Declaration and to secure culturally appropriate recognition, protection and sustainable development for the river. 

Traditional Owners have called for the implementation of a Martuwarra Fitzroy River Catchment Management Plan, and a moratorium on all future water allocations in the Fitzroy River catchment until the plan is in place. The Council has also called for the whole of the river to be appropriately protected.

Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council member and Nyikina woman Dr Anne Poelina said Traditional Owners were pushing for a more coordinated approach.

"We have an obligation globally with climate change and water scarcity to work together to prevent a disaster on this National Heritage Listed Fitzroy River and learn from the lessons of the Murray Darling Basin. 
This is not about stopping development, this is about doing development the right and sustainable way with Traditional Owners at the front and centre of any decision making.” 

Read the full statement of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council on the Kimberley Land Council website. 

Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council founding members at May meeting in Fitzroy Crossing. Photo: Kimberley Land Council

The Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council was established following a meeting of Traditional Owners in Fitzroy Crossing on May 2018. The meeting was in response to the WA State Government’s proposal to develop a management plan, water allocation plan and a national park along the Fitzroy River concurrently, as well as significant development pressure from industry.

At the meeting, Traditional Owners expressed concerns about the proposals, including:

  • Any management plan must address the issues that are outlined in the Fitzroy River Declaration.
  • The applicability of the current State Government joint management approach on lands already under existing sole Indigenous ownership, control or management.
  • The view that all of the river needs protected area status, not just some small areas, and that it would be difficult to consider the details of a protected area or national park without first developing a catchment wide management plan.
  • The need for government to engage in a consistent and transparent way with all groups.
  • That Traditional Owners should not be asked to give away land or cultural sites to anyone for any reason, and that all groups should be involved in any future protected area negotiations as what happens in one part of the river impacts all of the river.
  • Traditional Owners will not accept any water allocation plan that leaves Traditional Owners with leftover water after everyone else has taken out water first.

This historic moment has garnered media attention throughout the country - click on the images to read the articles:


Show your support for the WA Government’s election commitment to protect the Fitzroy River through a new National Park and Management Plan, and to only support sustainable development HERE

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