, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 109-123

The role of the Yorta Yorta people in clarifying the common interest in sustainable management of the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia

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Abstract

The Murray–Darling Basin incorporates Australia’s three longest rivers and spans four states and one territory. It is important for an agricultural industry worth more than AUS$9 billion per year, but is also the life source and the spirit of the Indigenous Yorta Yorta people. Here, we address whether the interests of the Yorta Yorta people can encompass the common interest of the wider community in the Basin, and how the colonial legacy and climate change of the past century continue to influence the realization of the common interest moving forward. We find that shared regional governance with an agreed outcome supports the ongoing sustainability of the country and its people, but because of the legal history of Australia since colonization, recognition and mutual respect are no less important. Further, we note that the increasing climatic variability and changing climatic mechanisms that now exemplify the southeast of Australia corroborates the need for adaptive planning with longer time horizons. These lessons are supported by the customary law and practice of the Yorta Yorta people.