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The Roper River Cultural Map

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The Roper River Water Statement

We represent the clans and language groups of South East Arnhem Land: Ngalakgan, Alawa, Mangarrayi, Ngandi, Marra, Warndarrang, Nunggubuyu, Ritharrngu-Wagilak and Rembarrnga.

We are the Traditional Custodians of the Roper River and its catchment. We speak as one voice. We have translated this statement into your language, English, to help you understand us. Water is life.

All our songlines follow the water. We are all connected. If you take our water, you kill our culture. If you kill our culture, you kill our people.

“The Roper River is our great spirit. We blackfella own that water. Who was that people Captain Cook been see beach side? A lotta my people got shot. They took our land. The water is for cleansing our spirit. Now the Government say we don’t have rights to water. From the past we know we own the water. Nothing will ever change that. Maybe that Mabo been a waste of time? Most of our Dreaming is in the water. We can’t change that law. Don’t come in and bully that blackfulla. They can take their plans for cotton, for dams, away with them. The government gotta leave that fresh water alone. We worry about our fresh water being polluted. We don’t know what Munanga (whitefella) been using. They don’t tell us. They can’t change our minds about water. Like we said about disturbing our saltwater, our sacred sites -no means no! They won’t get this one.”

  • Gordon Nawundulpi, on behalf of the Yugul Mangi clans of the Roper.

We want our Indigenous water rights properly recognised, including:

  • We want a ban on all further water extraction, licenses and surface water harvesting in the Roper catchment, including the groundwater and floodplains that are the life of the River.
  • We want evidence that environmental and Indigenous cultural values are protected and made into law.
  • We want all downstream communities of the Roper to be included in all water joint-decision making from now on. We have never been consulted.
  • Our scientific and cultural knowledge of freshwater and saltwater Country came long before Colonisation and must be listened to and prioritised.
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