Conference Proceedings – Reconciliation SessionThe 18th Annual Western Australian Wetlands Conference

2nd & 3rd February 2022
Cultural Wisdom & Scientific Innovation for our Wetlands


The overarching theme of our conference followed the Ramsar theme for 2022 of ‘Wetlands Action for People & Nature’. The 2-day conference was divided into 4 half-days, each of which is set to feature the following themes - Leadership, Reconciliation, Sustainability and Partnerships.


Day 1 | Morning
Wednesday, 2nd February 2022


Day 1 | Afternoon
Wednesday, 2nd February 2022


Day 2 | Morning
Thursday, 3rd February 2022


Day 2 | Afternoon
Thursday, 3rd February 2022


Day 1 | Afternoon | Wednesday, 2nd February 2022

To initiate, support and sustain a proactive partnership with traditional custodians for the conservation of wetlands. This includes increasing participation, support and engagement recognising the importance of traditional knowledge and expertise.


The Cultural Importance of the Wetlands and Waterways of the Djalgarro Beeliar Catchment

The Djarlgarro Beeliar (Canning River) is one of the main natural arteries that sustain Perth’s southern landscapes. From the confluence with the Derbarl Yerrigan to its headwaters in the hills, the Djarlgarro Beeliar is fed by several creeks, including the Yule and Bickley Brooks to the north, and Neerigen Brook, Wungong and Southern Rivers to the south. The river, its tributaries, the many wetlands and swamps – and the invisible, yet sustaining groundwater – are a fundamental part of the local environment and hold enormous cultural value.

Noongar knowledge and perspectives of the waterways have been gathered over the decades, often in the context of land development and associated heritage surveys. However, this information is scattered across multiple organizations and not easily accessible, including to the Noongar community itself.

In this presentation, we share the journey of an ongoing collaborative, interdisciplinary, Noongar co-led project that has gathered archival information about the Noongar values associated with the wetlands and waterways of the Djalgarro Beeliar catchment, and has invited the Noongar community to interpret, discuss and map the information gathered.

We share key reflections on the importance of working together and alongside Traditional Owners and the broader Noongar community in the planning, management and interpretation of wetlands and waterways. These ecosystems hold great cultural and heritage value, and they are crucial from an ecological and climate change adaptation perspective. As such, they should be prioritized for best practice in urban planning and water sensitive urban design, but also, importantly, for Reconciliation and social healing through placemaking and shared stewardship.

Expert Presentation 1

Connecting to Our Rivers: Protocols and processes for respectful catchment research

The impact of settler colonial land use and planning on inland waters is severe and ongoing. Urban waters in particular were degraded due to European associations of Australian wetlands with disease and pestilence. Aboriginal law and tradition survived the colonial encounter and is a very different system of land management and approaches to inland waters. However, First Law (that the law is in the land and not in humans) continues to be unrecognisable to European-Australian systems of land management and research. While this is the case, co-existence and co-management of Perth’s precious waters is not possible, and the risks to Traditional Owners of sharing Indigenous Knowledge is substantial.  

Here we present our attempts to address this imbalance within a multidisciplinary research project for a creek catchment of Derbarl Yerrigan, the Swan River. Wombanagan Blackadder Creek is a modified natural creek in the City of Swan and Town of Mundaring, 16 kilometres north-east of Perth. Drawing from Indigenous Research Methods and contemporary approaches to Indigenous ecological knowledge (IEK) and Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property (ICIP), we seek to answer the question: how to do research into water and land management that respects the sovereignty and rights of Nyungar owners of IEK and historical knowledge, supports their relationship with Country, and brings other people respectfully into these relationships? These are essential questions if Perth is to achieve a shared vision and just and effective co-management of its most precious heritage: its waterways.

Expert Presentation 2

Nyungar Know-how

You are invited to join with the Wetlands Education Centre’s Elder in Residence Marie Taylor in exploring the deep connection between Nyungar people and the landscape. Through awareness and understanding there is greater opportunity for better appreciation of Nyungar language and customs and the cultural significance of the Beelier Wetlands.

Expert Presentation 3

New ways of listening in the Wetland: Podcasts, perspectives and practitioners

In 2022, podcasts are a popular way of producing and sharing stories, information and values internationally. However, their cultural context is shaping new ways of listening. Latitude Creative Services Principal Gina Pickering describes changes and opportunities in the way we hear, appreciate and are impacted by the spirit and resilience of Whadjuk Nyungar culture.

New research is strengthening understanding around connection to place and the relationship between people, flora and fauna, the seasons and waterways. The Nyoongar people of the southwest have continued to practice a ‘relational’ way of life for millennia and now it’s reaching the ears and hearts of those new to Nyungar cultural ways.

Case Studies

Places of Belonging: A Wetlands Story.

This paper discusses success in the space of reclaiming Country through a project to do with water and the development of wetlands from where once there was an old colonial farm. This place is teaming with life, Pelicans, water birds, and even Platypus. Now big trees are even attracting Cockatoos. The paper shares the story of its significant place within the local Indigenous community and a whole of community approach. I feel this narrative of the Wonga Wetlands is special not only for my Wiradjuri Country, but it also shares a story that inspires all lovers of wetlands and wetland species. It has lessons and inspirations that can celebrate familiar projects in Western Australia, too.


This conference was made possible thanks to our benefactors and supporters

Gold Sponsor

Silver Sponsors

This event is supported by PHCC through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Bronze Sponsors

Gavin Waugh


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