Bringing First Nations knowledge to water management

Rivers, wetlands and First Nations traditional weaving have gone hand in hand for thousands of years.

Baskets and fish traps woven from rushes and reeds using First Nations traditional weaving techniques

The fibres used to weave fish traps, baskets and string grow alongside our rivers and billabongs.

Sedges, rushes, grasses, vines and reeds used for weaving have been harvested sustainably for generations.

Today, water for the environment is helping to keep our river systems healthy and productive not only for the animals and plants that live in these areas, but also for the way they can support long-established cultural practices.

Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s Biodiversity, Conservation and Science Group is working with First Nations to incorporate traditional knowledge into the management of water in New South Wales.

The Biodiversity, Conservation and Science team took part in a gathering with Aboriginal women beside the Lachlan River in December 2019 to learn more about caring for Country.

A series of short videos captured the event as Aboriginal women shared their stories, knowledge and perspectives on protecting and nurturing the river system that sustains us all.

You can view the videos on the Bundaburrah Creek Dabu Yarra Muran Project webpage on The Corridor Project website.

There are five videos in the series.

  • 'Welcome to Country': Yindyamarra is a way of living that respects the Elders that have gone before, and also the land and rivers and culture and people of the Country. Told in story form, it is about the importance of looking after our lands and our rivers. ‘If water is life, without the river, there would be none of us, and there would be no plants and animals.’
  • 'Native grasses and their uses': This video explains how different species of grasses and sedges, such as Poa, Lomandra and Dianella, lend themselves to various weaving practices. Strength and suppleness make some better suited to making string or rope, coiling for mats and baskets, or fish traps.
  • 'Harvesting with respect': This video focuses on preserving and conserving the fibre-producing plants used for weaving so they carry on year after year. It talks about the change of the seasons and when it is best to gather the material so it is more supple, but also so the plant can rejuvenate and provide habitat for birds and small fish. The emphasis is on taking enough fibres to use and leaving the rest of the plant to grow and seed for next time.
  • 'Yarning circle': This video discusses the stories and friendship that go hand in hand with weaving and women coming together – when they sit down, relax, talk and connect. The yarning circle is important for wellbeing and a way to pass on knowledge.
  • 'Making string': This video demonstrates the technique used to twine and the beginnings of a string bag.