Rene Woods

Rene Woods

Rene Woods, Australia

Rene Woods is a Nari Nari man from south-west New South Wales in Australia. Rene has been involved with the management of Aboriginal culture, heritage and natural resources for many years, and is currently working as an Aboriginal Heritage Conservation Officer in the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. As chairperson of the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations, Rene represents the southern Murray Darling Basin nations on the National Cultural Flows Research Project. Rene is also vice-chairperson of the Nari Nari Tribal Council and holds a seat on the Toogimbie IPA advisory group. He enjoys working with communities on the ground to promote awareness of Aboriginal culture and heritage, water issues, and getting local Communities back on Country and involved in water management.

Presentation Title: Understanding cultural flows: a coordinated research effort in pursuit of Aboriginal water rights

For Aboriginal peoples, water sustains a complex relationship between the environment, individuals and their spirits. As described by Euahlayi Elder Michael Anderson, “to disturb these ecosystems is to destroy Aboriginal people’s ancestors; without Country and connection we become spiritually sterile. As a culture and as a people, cultural water flows are absolutely essential to our wellbeing”. Securing water entitlements for the spiritual, cultural, social, environmental and economic benefit of Aboriginal nations is the key goal of the National Cultural Flows Research Project. Driven by Aboriginal people, for Aboriginal people, the research project is working to build up a strong evidence base that can help embed Aboriginal ownership and management of water into Australia’s water planning and management regimes. Social, cultural and hydrological research has been undertaken at two case study sites in the Murray-Darling Basin: Toogimbie IPA Wetlands in the south and Gooraman Swamp in the north. Aboriginal communities at these sites have helped develop and trial transparent and replicable ways to define and quantify their cultural water needs, looking at the challenges and opportunities that exist in both highly regulated and largely unregulated systems. Through a combination of modelling and field monitoring, the case study sites have provided a solid basis for identifying the policy, legislative and institutional changes that will be needed to give effect to meaningful Aboriginal water rights. Due to be completed by the end of 2017, this research project is empowering Aboriginal nations in the Murray Darling Basin and beyond with the tools, ideas and rigorous underpinning evidence to effect real change in Australia’s water management frameworks, for the benefit of Aboriginal people.

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