Cultural impacts of supply measures need scrutiny

Media Release: 28th August 2015

Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN)

The peak Traditional Owner group in the Southern Murray Darling Basin has called for a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of ‘supply measures’ on Aboriginal cultural values, as an independent stocktake of the projects was released yesterday.

State Governments have submitted 36 projects including the construction of infrastructure at key points in the Southern Basin, to reduce water recovery targets under the Commonwealth’s Murray Darling Basin Plan by up to 650 GL. The Basin Ministerial Council commissioned independent consultants to report on the progress of the projects and their report was released yesterday.

‘These supply projects involve serious, direct impacts on culturally significant landscapes and changes to the way water will be managed in the Southern Basin,’ MLDRIN Chair and Ngintait man Darren Perry said.

‘The Stocktake report released today is a valuable document, but it provides no further clarity on the way these supply projects, and the resulting reductions in real environmental flows, will affect Traditional Owners’ rights and cultural values,’ Mr Perry said.

‘Already, we have seen major disturbance of cultural heritage, including burial sites, at one SDL supply measure project in the Koondrook-Perricoota forest. As these projects are rolled out across the Basin, we need to know how they are going to affect our rights and obligations to care for Country and sustain our traditions and knowledge.’

‘Assessing cultural heritage impacts on a site-by-site basis is important, but we also need to understand the collective impact of these projects, and cutting the water recovery target, across the scale of the Basin.

‘The commonwealth has invested in the National Cultural Flows Research Project, to document Aboriginal water-related cultural values in the Basin. We are concerned that these supply measure projects could jeopardise those values, before this important research is completed.’

‘We are calling for a comprehensive, independent assessment of the cultural impacts of these works, in addition to planned assessments of their environmental impacts. We also need much closer engagement from State Governments who are developing these projects and an open discussion about the costs and benefits of these projects with Traditional Owners in each region,’

Contact:

Darren Perry (MLDRIN Chair): 0417 837 549

Will Mooney (Executive Officer): 0404 163 700