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The 'Systematic Dewatering' of the Darling-Baaka and its consequences for the cultural-ecology of river communities

Abstract: Despite policy efforts to address water insecurity in the wider Murray-Darling Basin, the Darling-Barka River and its wetlands have experienced ongoing degradation of ecosystems services which has negatively impacted human communities. Through locally produced storytelling, media discourse and cultural materials, this thesis aims to understand how water management practices and development projects have continued the ‘systematic dewatering’ of the lower-Darling-Barka and how these processes have been understood and resisted by community members. It aims to understand how a sequence of events, infrastructure projects and management practices are related to the way water is defined and valued within current governance frameworks and where and how these values are contested by local community members. Furthermore, this thesis will contextualise water management, water policy and development practices, with the deep connection that local water cultures have with the complex and nuanced hydroecologies of the lower Barka. It aims to understand how situated knowledges, localised values and social/cultural movements influence broader understandings of water - its value, use rules, knowledge and governance. 


Daniel Schulz commenced their PhD at the Crawford School of Public Policy in July 2021 with the Water Justice Hub, an initiative of the UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance at the ANU. Daniel is a resident of Broken Hill and has been practicing as a video artist and filmmaker in Far Western NSW since 2020. Their experiences of the 2019-2020 drought period galvanized their interest in community critiques of water policy and what this may offer to the future of water management. Their PhD examines how artistic practice can represent the invisible violence of environmental injustice and explores the consequences of water resource management on the cultural ecology of the lower Darling-Barka River.

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