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Published: 31 July 2018   •   Media release

The first maps which record Aboriginal land and water cultural activities across areas of the northern Murray–Darling Basin have been handed to traditional owners following a two-year Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) project to document these activities.

MDBA head of Partnerships Carl Binning said the maps would be a valuable asset for traditional owners and could help improve understanding of Indigenous cultural values and water requirements.

"The maps detail traditional knowledge handed down through generations of the Euahlayi Nation (You-alley-eye) and other traditional owners, and record their locations for hunting, fishing, ceremonies, harvesting plants and herbs, as well as burial mounds, campsites and sacred areas of deep spiritual significance," Mr Binning said.

Compiled by Canadian experts in First Nations mapping with support from the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations and the MDBA, the series of maps detail more than 26,000 features across an area covering the Barwon, Narran, Culgoa and Balonne rivers, from Brewarrina in northern New South Wales to St George in Queensland.

"These maps show the strong, ongoing connection that Aboriginal people have with Country and its water," Mr Binning said.

"The MDBA is proud to have supported the project because it recognises the critical role that Aboriginal people play in the management of water resources in the Murray–Darling Basin.

"The MDBA is committed to working with traditional owners to understand and recognise Aboriginal cultural values for water."

As part of the commitment, the MDBA provides support and funding for two dedicated Indigenous representative bodies—the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations and the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations.

The new Australian maps were handed to Euahlayi traditional owners at a ceremony in Brewarrina, in front of Aboriginal leaders including Fred Hooper, Chair of Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations which represents 22 Aboriginal Nations.

"The information in these maps is invaluable to Aboriginal communities and shows the historical and current use of rivers and waterways," Mr Hooper said.

"More importantly, the maps show how Aboriginal people have deep and enduring connection to Country."

The cultural mapping project follows the National Cultural Flows Research Committee's release of research into cultural flows in June.

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority contracted the mapping services of Canadian consultants Tobias and Associates, who first developed the system to detail First Nations connections with land and water across Canada.

The Murray–Darling Basin is home to more than 40 Aboriginal nations and more than 65,000 years of continuous culture and history.

Fast facts:

  • The Murray–Darling Basin covers one million square kilometres – that's four times the size of New Zealand
  • The Murray–Darling Basin accounts for about 14 per cent of Australia's land mass and produces about 40 per cent of our food and fibre.
  • 2.6 million people live in the Murray–Darling Basin and more than 3 million rely on it for drinking water.


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