Katie O’Bryan

Katie O’Bryan

Katie O’Bryan is a law lecturer at Monash University. Her research focusses on legislative recognition of Indigenous water rights. Prior to becoming an academic, she worked for over a decade as a lawyer for native title claimants in Western Australia and Victoria.

This presentation is about Victoria’s iconic Yarra River and the role of Victoria’s Traditional Owners in its management and protection, which has taken a major step forward with the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Act 2017 (Vic), passed last year by the Victorian Parliament.

It’s also about New Zealand’s innovative Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Settlement) Act 2017, passed last year by the New Zealand Parliament, which settled the Whanganui Iwi’s longstanding claim to the Whanganui River.

In both instances, the government’s media release accompanying the development stated that it would be giving an ‘independent voice’ to the river. In Victoria, the independent voice of the Yarra River is the Birrarung Council and in New Zealand, the independent voice of the Whanganui River, Te Awa Tupua, has been given to Te Pou Tupua, the human face of the river. But how similar are these two entities?

This presentation will first outline the main features of the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Act insofar as it relates to Victoria’s Traditional Owners, after which it will compare the Birrarung Council with Te Pou Tupua. It will then make some observations in relation to their independence, and how they recognise and promote the role of Indigenous people in river management with a view to providing some insights as to the potential benefits and disadvantages of each for Indigenous river management.

View 2018 Presentation here

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