Indigenous water needs for the Martuwarra/Fitzroy River

The Martuwarra (Fitzroy River) in Western Australia has sustained Indigenous people and their societies for millennia. The Fitzroy catchment makes up a large part of the West Kimberley National Heritage Place, listed for its outstanding cultural and natural values. Its waters – including rivers, floodplain wetlands, springs and other waterbodies including aquifers – are of great importance to Aboriginal people of the catchment.

There is increased interest in developing the water resources of the Fitzroy River to enable the expansion of irrigated agriculture. This will require more appropriate water governance and management. Any water-allocation plan needs to recognise that Aboriginal people do not just require a certain volume of water flowing through the river – they also need authority and voice in matters affecting water. The maintenance of custodial relationships and improvement of quality of life are key to meeting the water needs of Traditional Owners.

Language map of the Fitzroy River catchment (WA)

Map of the Martuwarra/Fitzroy River catchment showing Native Title boundaries and corresponding language groups.

  • Josephine Forrest and Likil. Photo: Sarah Laborde © Josephine Forrest.
  • Yeerra Pool on Nyikina-Mangala land (Fitzroy River), photo Michael Douglas.
  • Nyikina-Mangala Rangers collect fish in the pools and shallow run habitats of the lower Fitzroy River, photo Leah Beesley.
  • Traditional Resources. Photo: Glenn Campbell
  • Fitzroy River. Photo: Michael Douglas
  • Bush tucker. Photo: Michael Lawrence-Taylor
  • Fitzroy River. Photo: Michael Douglas
  • Fitzroy River. Photo: Michael Douglas