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Wanyarram Dhelk project enhancing environmental health in Bendigo

Bendigo Creek has benefited from a new project aimed at improving its water health, as well as the health of its tributaries.

Named Wanyarram Dhelk, meaning "good waterhole" in Djaara language, the initiative used local Indigenous knowledge and management to bolster environmental and social health.

Initiated in 2016, Dja Dja Wurrung Enterprises, in partnership with the North Central Catchment Management Authority, secured $500,000 to lead and deliver the project on Country.

The project is one of the priority actions of Water Sensitive Bendigo, a collaborative initiative driven by CRC Water Sensitive Cities research to support Bendigo’s transition to becoming a more sustainable and water sensitive regional hub.

The project included three key drivers, including:

  • improving cultural values of Bendigo Creek while creating opportunities for Djaara people to actively participate in healing Country through on-ground project delivery;
  • building the capacity of Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and Dja Dja Wurrung enterprises to play a leading role in protecting and enhancing the natural environment;
  • providing opportunities for education and awareness about Dja Dja Wurrung culture; and
  • combining traditional ecological knowledge with contemporary design and technology.

“All areas on Country are culturally significant. The project creates opportunities for Djaara people to engage in practical activities on Country that heal Country and water,” the case summary says.

“Projects such as Wanyarram Dhelk become hubs for school groups and the broader community, demonstrating how Djarra people heal Country and water. They are also a place to share Djaara stories and culture.”

The CRC Water Sensitive Cities case study outlines three key lessons of the project thus far, including improvements to ecosystems, water supply and community engagement.

The project has provided varied opportunities for Traditional Owners to get on Country.

“The project allows Djaara people to fulfil their cultural obligations to heal Country and water. When water is healthy, plants are healthy and can be used for traditional/customary practice,” the summary says.

The project also allowed for the transferral of Indigenous knowledge by creating a platform for listening.

“Traditional Owners can provide deep insights into waterway health using indicators of smells, sights and sounds,” it says.

Furthermore, the project showcases the ability to drive innovations by building on a collaborative community.

“Key stakeholders in Bendigo signed a Memorandum of Understanding that defines the consistent and inclusive governance to support integrated and adaptive water planning and management, and enables critical coordination and collaboration across the key agencies.”

To learn more about Wanyarram Dhelk, access the CRC Water Sensitive CIties case study here.