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Basin Heroes program educates students on water resource management

Students from Murray-Darling Basin communities are investigating their local river systems thanks to an educational pilot program focused on the importance of careful management of water resources.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has partnered with Petaurus Education Group to deliver the Basin Heroes program, a hands-on learning experience that encourages students to engage with local basin experts and develop a deeper understanding of the national asset.

Petaurus Education Group Program Coordinator Caitlin Lawrence said the program is all about helping young people understand how they can contribute to a healthy basin, now and in future.

“The Murray-Darling Basin is home to 2.2 million Australians including more than 40 First Nations, generates $24 billion in food and fibre and $8 billion in tourism. More than 120 waterbirds and more than 50 native fish species live in the basin,” Lawrence said.

“The overall aim of Basin Heroes is to educate the younger generation of basin community residents on the importance of keeping our basin healthy and in good working order, and how their part of the basin connects to the broader system.

“We are aiming to raise awareness of how vital the basin is to these communities, in terms of its connection to agriculture, food production, clean drinking water, culture, tourism and the environment.”

Students connect deeply with local environment

Lawrence said the program is designed to bolster current school curriculum by enabling a deeper connection and understanding of local environments, with the program tailored to each participating basin community.

Primary school students read a case-study book they created from previous programs. Primary school students read a case-study book they created from previous programs.

“While education in geography looks into healthy waterways, a lot of teachers haven't been given the capacity or resources to talk about that from a local perspective. Our aim is to offer more local basin learning and instil community pride,” she said.

“These students are our next generation of landholders, scientists and community leaders. And they will be helping manage the basin into the future. It’s really important that they are aware of all the ways they can be actively involved in maintaining its health.

“The program is 100% tailored to each of the communities we visit.”

The program involves students meeting and learning from local Basin Heroes, including Indigenous Elders and Traditional Owners, educators, land services experts and farmers, as well as community members.

“The aim is for the students to create a physical case-study book. This book is completely owned and created by the students. They interview a Basin Hero, which is a local community member, about key topics around the basin that are important to the community,” Lawrence said.

“This experience is followed up with a field day, which is a round-robin of really fun and practical activities. They might be surveying water quality, or looking at freshwater bugs, or learning from Indigenous Elders about water on Country and the significance of the waterways in the area.”

“These two program events are accompanied by a range of in-class lessons that support the development of the students’ books, but also provide that context and curriculum-linked scientific knowledge.”

Reach more basin communities

While Basin Heroes is currently in the pilot phase, with programs planned for Goondiwindi, Leeton, Albury-Wodonga, Mildura, and Murray Bridge, Lawrence said Petaurus Education Group looks forward to rolling the program out to more basin communities in future.

“During the pilot phase, we will be evaluating the success of the program and receiving feedback from the community members, teachers and students involved to make sure we can improve upon the program moving forward,” Lawrence said.

If you’d like to learn more about the Basin Heroes program, or how to get involved, contact Caitlin Lawrence.