Andrew Kelly

Andrew Kelly

Andrew Kelly, Australia

Andrew Kelly has been the Yarra Riverkeeper since November 2014 when he took over from Ian Penrose, the previous spokesperson of the Association. Andrew was a general committee member for several years before being elected Vice-president. He retains this role on the committee. He has a long term interest in water and geography, and is a graduate in history, geography and archaelology. He has on a number of government committees on water and water-related issues. He is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and was previously the vice-president of the Australian Publishers Association. He has live near the Yarra for his whole life and regularly walks, paddles and rides along the River. He gives some 35 talks about the Yarra each year and regularly appears on radio and in the print media speaking about the River.

Presentation Title: The Yarra Riverkeeper, Yarra River Protection Act and Birrarung Council

By the time this talk is delivered, the Yarra River Protection (Willip-gin Birrarung murron) Bill, may have passed the Victorian Legislative Council. The bill passed the Legislative Assembly unopposed in August. The bill is unique. It involves urban traditional owners in river management. In an Australia first, the preamble of the Bill was written in language, in the Woiwurrung language of the Recognised Aboriginal Party in the Yarra catchment. The bill is the result of 10 years of lobbying by the Yarra Riverkeeper, a community not-for-profit. In response to that lobbying, the ALP put a Yarra River Protection Bill and a Yarra Trust into the party’s election policies for the November 2014 election. After the Andrews’ government won office, the Riverkeeper, in partnership with Environmental Justice Australia, worked with the Planning Minister, Mr Richard Wynne, his office, and the department, and the Yarra Ministerial Advisory Council when it was appointed, to develop the proposed legislation through a co-design process with the community. The bill is not only a better way of protecting and improving an urban waterway but a new way of managing urban green infrastructure through community-driven legislation.

Download 2017 Presentation

The Yarra River Protection (Willp-gin Birrarung murron) Act (the Yarra Act) was passed in a September 2017 in the Victorian Parliament, unanimously in both houses. It is a bold and innovative piece of legislation that requires that the Yarra River be considered as ‘one living and integrated natural entity’. The Yarra Act is an exercise in the rights of nature as well as bringing coherent and co-ordinated management to the river the rich variety of government agencies that are responsible for the Yarra. The Act requires a Yarra Strategic Plan to be developed and implemented by a lead agency, Melbourne Water. That plan is binding on government agencies. The Yarra Act is also a long-term plan based on a community vision. It is an innovative combination of instruments, principles, plans and management opportunities. The Yarra Act is a new way of thinking about landscape-scale ecologies. It brings co-design into river management.

One of the key features of the Yarra Act is that there is not only a title and a preamble written in the language of the people of the catchment, Woiwurrung, but the Yarra Act envisages ‘caring for country’ in an urban setting by traditional owners. In the words of the preamble to Yarra Act the traditional owners are acknowledged as the custodians of the land and waterway. To date much of the discussion around ‘caring for country’ has been focussed on the more remote parts of Australia, yet some 65% of indigenous Australians live in cities and towns.

As an innovative legal act, its effectiveness will be as much as to how its implementation works on the ground as it will be about the words in the authorised version of the Yarra Act itself. That journey has begun, but it is still in an early and exciting stage.

Download 2018 Presentation



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