Parliamentary Triangle Seminar Series

Murray Darling Rivers: Can Indigenous Stories Reshape 21st Century Policy?Thu 28 November 2013The National Press Club, CanberraANZSOG Institute for Governance
(GST Inclusive)
12.00pm -2.00pm

This event is being broadcast live via a webcast. You can watch the broadcast by clicking here.




“Ringbalin - River Stories” is the re-imaging of Australia’s greatest river system from its source in Queensland to the sea 2500 km away at the Coorong in South Australia. Through a host of high quality short documentary films, a group of Elders and storytellers from different traditional nations will invite people to take an actual, or virtual journey. These are journeys of connection and transformation, guided by the insights and knowledge of indigenous knowledge holders through a landscape of geo-located Aboriginal stories and interactive maps.

Although “Ringbalin - River Stories” is largely a cultural guide, a story and a tool for discovery, it also has significant implications for how we craft sustainable futures in the Murray Darling Basin. From the underlying geography, geology and hydrology; through the indigenous stories of water courses, culture and history; to the current flow of the rivers and the work of the Elders to keep the rivers of water and knowledge alive. “Ringbalin - River Stories” provides unique insights into the potential role of the localism in broaching one of Australian public policy’s wickedest problems.

The purpose of this Parliamentary Triangle Seminar will be to evaluate the potential role of “Ringbalin-River Stories” in narrating not only a different understanding of the ecology of the basin but a new approach to the governance of the Basin. An approach that recognizes that the challenge of sustainable development requires the adoption of the key principles underpinning these indigenous stories: of stewardship for future generations; that all Basin communities should have parity of esteem, rights and responsibilities for stewardship; and, that a healthy basin requires governance for the future. By implication, “Ringbalin-River Stories” is a metaphor for inclusive change governance that places local communities at the vanguard of sustainable development.

With this aim in mind the ANZSOG Institute for Governance has brought together a panel of national experts and practitioners to reflect on these fundamental issues for the future of the Basin. How do indigenous stories lead us to rethink the ecology of the Basin? What are the governance implications of these stories? How can they help us to address the institutional sclerosis that characterizes national water governance in Australia? How could a new government use this approach to change governance to empower local communities to take charge of their own Murray Darling Basin futures?

Social Purpose

The purpose of this event is fourfold: firstly, to raise public consciousness of Ringbalin-River Stories in narrating not only a different understanding of the ecology of the basin but a new approach to the governance of the Basin; secondly, to draw attention to the governance implications of these stories; and, thirdly, to evaluate how a new government could use this approach to change governance to empower local communities to take charge of their own Murray Darling Basin futures.



Adjunct Professor Virginia Haussegger is the face of ABC TV News in Canberra. She is an award winning journalist and commentator whose extensive media career spans more than 20 years. Her work has taken her around the world reporting for Australia’s leading current affairs programs: A Current Affair, Witness and The 7.30 Report. As a columnist and feature writer Virginia is widely published across Australian media. Her outspoken views on women and their place in contemporary society have been the source of much public debate and media commentary. Her seminal article on feminism and childlessness was ranked by The Age newspaper as among the most significant opinion pieces published in its 150 year history. Virginia’s book, Wonder Women: the myth of ‘having it all’ was launched by Julia Gillard in a live broadcast at the National Press Club.

The Panel

Professor Mark Evans is the Director of the ANZSOG Institute for Governance at the University of Canberra. He is an expert in the study and practice of public sector governance. His track record of achievement in this area reflects his ability to produce high quality research in governance related research; develop high quality professional development programs in public sector governance; facilitate strong academic communities in different academic cultures; develop effective research-centred collaborations across governments and sectors in different national cultures; harness the creative energies of partners in governance to affect progressive social change; facilitate high performance and innovation in research and policy; and build values-driven, financially sustainable organizations which deliver genuine public value.

Ben Pederick began making documentaries in 1996, producing twenty pieces about the exploitation of migrant women outworkers by in the Australian fashion manufacturing industry. In the last decade Ben has produced documentaries on human rights and the environment internationally, with organisations including National Geographic USA, Radio Free Asia, and The Nature Conservancy. In 2009 and 2010 Ben was contracted as Series Director for National Geographic’s first digital expedition, working with Alexandra Cousteau to chronicle water stories of water crisis Internationally and across North America. He is a co-founder of multi-award winning production company Goodmorningbeautiful working globally on critical stories, including: the Grand Prix du Bassac, Cambodian Environmental Film Festival (2008), Best Online Journalism, the Society of Environmental Journalism (2009), First Prize, the Hong Kong Human Rights Press Awards (2012).


Uncle Major Sumner is an Ngarrindjeri Elder from the Coorong and lower lakes in South Australia who has been working with local, national and international communities for over 30 years. Major has been involved in the repatriation of human remains from London and Scotland back to Ngarrindjeri country in southern South Australia. He is also a member of the World Council of Elders. Major teaches dance, traditional hunting practices and storytelling to people of all ages to bring about healing in the community, and to educate both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people around the world about Aboriginal cultures. Major’s cultural leadership is at work with people affected by drug and alcohol abuse, children in detention centres, and adults in mainstream prisons and correctional facilities. Major formed Tal-Kin-Jeri the Ngarrindjeri dance group in 1997. Since then they have performed around the world, including the United States, Canada, South Korea, India, England, Ireland, Scotland, France and New Zealand. In 2010 he founded the Murrundi Ruwe Pangari Ringbalin, a ceremony to heal the Murray Darling Rivers. The Ringbalin takes place every year now at Easter.

Ms Cheryl Buchanan is an Indigenous writer and advocate. She is the Chairperson of the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations and was the inaugural state and national chairperson of the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council. She is founder of many Aboriginal organisations.



Professor Barry Hart AM is currently director of an environmental consulting company (Water Science Pty Ltd) and MDBA Board Member. He is an emeritus professor at Monash University and has previously held the positions of Director of the Water Studies Centre at Monash University and Director of Research at the Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology. Barryt has established an international reputation in the fields of ecological risk assessment, environmental flow decision-making (particularly using Bayesian Network models), water quality and catchment management and environmental chemistry. He is well known for his sustained efforts in developing knowledge-based decision making processes in natural resource management in Australia and south-east Asia (particularly with the Mekong River Commission). Currently, he is involved in projects in China and PNG.

Bradley Moggridge is a proud descendant of the Kamilaroi Nation (North-West NSW) and lives in Canberra. He is currently employed by NSW Office of Water as the Program Manager Aboriginal Water Initiative (which is a 4 year program and the only Aboriginal water unit in Australia). He is on leave from CSIRO where he was an Indigenous Water Research Specialist. Brad has qualifications in Environmental Science (BSc) from ACU and Hydrogeology and Groundwater Management (MSc) from UTS. Career highlights attending the 2013 Master Class by Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, presenting at the Australian Academy of Science and playing golf for Australia. Brad was a 2013 Finalist for the National Deadly Awards as an Indigenous Scientist, he is member of many National committees, and is also a judge for both the Australian RiverPrize and the River Management Youth Achievers Award.



The ANZSOG Institute of Governance Parliamentary Triangle Seminar Series is part of the Big Issues Big Talk Centenary of Canberra project, proudly supported by the Australian Government, ACT Government and Principal Partner ActewAGL.

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