Hawkesbury-Nepean Waterkeeper Alliance Launched River Report Card

Hawkesbury Waterkeeper Alliance – a partnership under RCE Greater Western Sydney between Western Sydney University, Greater Sydney Local Landcare Services, Streamwatch, Cattai Hills Environment Network, Hawkesbury Environment Network, Hawkesbury Nepean Landcare Network and Greater Sydney Landcare – has released its inaugural 'River Report Card'.

Launched at the second regional Waterkeeper Forum in May, the report utilised scientific, social, and cultural data collected by citizen scientists from June 2021 to March 2022 to provide a snapshot of the overall health and wellbeing of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River.

Brittany Vermeulen, Sustainability Coordinator at Western Sydney University, said the river is a dynamic water system with an active floodplain and home to unique biodiversity and generations of people.

"The ultimate aim of this report is to encourage a community voice for the river and for the Alliance to collaboratively explore the process and structure for what a 'rights of the river' approach could potentially look like," said Ms Vermeulen.

As part of this initiative, the Hawkesbury Waterkeeper Alliance worked in consultation with the Aboriginal Communities Team at Greater Sydney Local Land Services, to develop a statement that recognises the cultural significance of water.

Dharug educators Uncle Lex Dadd and Chris Tobin, supported by the Aboriginal Communities Team, led a special cultural walk and talk on 25 May at Yellomundee Regional Park for participants to connect with the First Nations custodians and develop an ongoing partnership for Caring for Country, especially the health of the river.

Attended by local river advocates, local council and agencies and academics, a strong message from the event was the central importance of First Nations voices in the future management of the river built on a commitment to meaningfully work together and strengthen relationships with communities who have a deep and continuous connection to Country.

Dr Michelle Ryan, who is from the University’s School of Science and is the Hawkesbury Waterkeeper Alliance’s first internationally recognised 'Waterkeeper', said the report provides an important benchmark for the river’s health as well as recognising local biodiversity and how people connect with the river.

Dr Ryan said the report is based on data and insights obtained through a range of workshops and sampling events coordinated by the Hawkesbury Waterkeeper Alliance.

"We’ve been delighted at the community’s interest in the health of the river and thank the volunteers who took part in sampling under the guidance of experts from the University," she said.

“We also acknowledge the efforts of a number of student interns from the University who worked on the project through graphic design, data analysis, web editing, and scientific data collection."

The River Report Card was funded by a Sydney Water Community Grant and supported by Alliance partners.

Western Sydney University was recently named number one in the world for its social, ecological and economic impact in the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings. Find out more here.

(Written by: Ali Sardyga, Senior Media Officer, Western Sydney University. Photo credit: Jessica Lumbroso)