We’ve had some difficult times here in the Kimberley this year. Devastating floods in the Fitzroy Valley led to people losing their homes and belongings, animals being washed away and infrastructure destroyed. In the past week, more floods have hit the north, around Kununurra, cutting off supplies into the region.
As flood-affected communities get out of survival mode and start the recovery process, it’s really important that the government listens to people and understands their concerns and aspirations.
With huge volumes of water flowing down the river and its floodplains - in places 40km wide - it’s vital that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. In the big flood of 1983, irrigation infrastructure, which had damaged the landscape significantly, was washed away. Millions of taxpayer funds were wasted and the mess has yet to be cleared up.
We must let the WA Government know that recovery and rebuilding in the Fitzroy Valley needs to be sustainable and reflect the environmental and cultural values of the catchment.
In December, Minister Simone McGurk, Minister Jackie Jarvis and Minister Don Punch took on new portfolios and will recommend on the future of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River, following these devastating floods. They will have a lead role in deciding whether the river will be protected or opened up to damaging large-scale irrigation developments.
It’s important we send a message to the new Ministers to let them know the river needs protecting!
We are also concerned that large-scale irrigation dams on the floodplains could make future flooding worse, and more dangerous for surrounding communities.
On climate change in northern Australia and the Kimberley, State and Federal government agencies have been saying that, "There is high confidence that the intensity of heavy rainfall events will increase." Source: Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, September 2021.
The McGowan Government has promised to protect the Martuwarra, since the 2017 election. The floods make this undertaking more important than ever. Listening to Traditional Owners’ voices is critical if the Martuwarra is to continue to be a healthy river.
Will you send a message urging decision-makers to work with the community to create a sustainable future for the Fitzroy Valley?
People who have been affected by the floods are still under extreme stress and they’ll need support for the months and years ahead. If you’d like to chip in, please go here:
Donate to Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre fundraiser to help women and children in the Fitzroy Valley rebuild their lives after this flood disaster.
Support Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council's flood relief efforts to help those affected along the river.
Donate to Leedal Foundation Limited fundraiser for Flood Relief and Support for Aboriginal people in the Fitzroy Valley.
Donate to Wild Life West Inc in Fitzroy Crossing – a non-profit wildlife sanctuary – to help buy medical supplies, food and new shelters for injured and displaced wildlife.
Banner image: Fitzroy River Bridge by Andrew Myers
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