Converging currents: governance of living waters in the West Kimberley

Crawford School of Public Policy | Resources, Environment and Development Group

Event details

PhD Seminar

Date & time

Thursday 19 September 2019


Seminar Room 2, Level 1, JG Crawford Building, Lennox Crossing, The ANU


Kat Taylor


Dr Keith Barney

Water governance plays a critical role in Australia’s quest for water security. However, the dominant discourse underpinning Australian frameworks for water governance contests First People’s water responsibilities and rights. Co-researching with two Native Title groups, Walalakoo Aboriginal Corporation (Nyikina and Mangala peoples) and Nyamba Buru Yawuru (Yawuru), themes of water governance and policy are explored in the context of colonial expansion through ‘water development’ in the West Kimberley.

The research asks, firstly, ‘how can Australian water policy “navigate” between two competing discourses’? Secondly, ‘what might water co-governance between First Peoples and the Australian government look like?’ The first question is considered by applying a water colonial lens to policy frameworks, interrogating conceptual gaps and investigating possible reframing options. The second question is addressed through development of water policies with the research partners, using a participatory action research methodology.

The presentation focuses on the Walalakoo case study, highlighting Traditional Owner’s pragmatic options that work towards transforming water governance. Arising conceptual challenges to the status quo are discussed and areas for further research are proposed.

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