Protecting Broome’s Water
The first time I came to Broome I was struck by the semi-arid nature of this country, it is literally on the edge of a desert. The Broome township currently uses between 5 and 6 billion litres of water a year. This is figure does not even include the forecast growth in consumption with the development of Broome North which will increase the population of the township by around 65%. At the moment all of the town’s water comes from the Broome Sandstone Aquifer, a precious resource that is now under threat from industrial interests on the Dampier Peninsula.
Woodside are proposing to use 8 billion litres of water from the Broome aquifer each year, at no financial cost. Even if we overlook this gross inequity about who pays to use the Broome aquifer’s water, the risks involved in protecting the health of this aquifer are too great. Earlier this year the W.A. Department of Water itself recognised in its Groundwater Resources Review for the Dampier Peninsula that salinity risk in the Broome aquifer is high in many areas. The message here is clear, if we overuse the aquifer we risk polluting it with saltwater and lose a secure water supply for Broome.
c/o Coconut Wells
In the year 2000 I was amongst the first cohort at RMIT University to walk the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail with the Goolarabooloo traditional owners and gain academic recognition for this learning experience. At the time I was studying a Bachelor of Social Science (Environment) and hoped to move into the profession of Education for Sustainability. Whilst I anticipated that walking the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail would challenge my Western notions of land management and relationship with place, I could not have foreseen how long lasting and profound this experience would be for me on both a personal and professional level.
I completed my undergraduate degree with a complete lack of certainty in anything I had learnt to date. That one experience of being with Goolarabooloo on country made me question everything. It was from that moment that I realised what life-long learning might look like and that listening to Indigenous ways of knowing and being might offer me an opportunity to challenge my worldview and the assumptions I had about ‘reality’.
The generosity and openness with which the Goolarabooloo community receives visitors on their country and the act of walking country as one big mob, creates a powerful context for learning.
Since 2000 I have tried to unpack and quantify what it is about walking Trail that has impacted on me so deeply and indelibly shaped the direction my life has taken. I have practiced as a Sustainability Educator at primary, secondary and tertiary levels over the last decade; underpinning this teaching has been the burning question of, how does our connection to place shape our way of being in the world? The act of collectively walking country on Trail and what is happening at a deeper level, beyond an exploration of practical reconciliation, cannot easily be described. Developing an understanding of what is happening through this collective act has become a major focus for me in my professional life, as I am now undertaking a Masters by Research at Charles Darwin University to explore how being with country is shaping place-making in the 21st Century.
Every few years I return to Goolarabooloo country to walk Trail and keep learning from country and its custodians. I was fortunate to meet past Goolarabooloo custodian Paddy Roe OAM before he passed away. His vision for bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians so that we could walk and care for country together resonates throughout every walking of the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail. On my last visit to this country in July 2012 I spoke with one of Paddy’s great-grandsons about his vision for reconciliation. He told me that Paddy’s vision, “is always alive, it is never dying and never dead; this one man’s vision is everyone’s vision, we’ll keep it going.” For this I am very grateful.