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New partnership gives voice to the Murray Darling

16 JANUARY 2003

 Murray Darling Basin Commission logo

People of the Murray-Darling Basin will be given the means to participate in the management of the region's natural resources problems, with the launch today of a unique communication project at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Funded by the Australian Research Council, the $1.13 million partnership project involves the National Museum of Australia, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission and the University of Tasmania. The project, 'Committing to Place', will research how information and communication technologies can increase community involvement in the management of environmental and cultural heritage issues.

'The Murray-Darling Basin is Australia's largest and most developed river system and yet the water quality and biodiversity of this most productive region is under threat,' said the Director of the National Museum, Dawn Casey. 'The National Museum is delighted for this opportunity to explore how our information technologies and connections to rural communities can help stimulate debate about the Basin's future.'

The research team, based at the Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research at the University of Tasmania, will consult diverse Basin communities on how they wish to collect, interpret and publish historical materials and use oral histories and online interactive forums to put their point of view on local issues.

'There is a place for such wider-ranging work in recognising the strong links between the Basin's communities and their local environment,' said the CEO of the Murray- Darling Basin Commission, Don Blackmore, who signed the contact today with Dawn Casey at the Museum. 'This project can use the best of new technology to broaden and strengthen the links between people and their landscape.'

The contract signing was during a week-long conference at the National Museum involving ninety archaeologists meeting for the first time to discuss climate and environmental change in the major deserts of the southern hemisphere. 'Committing to Place' is the Museum's largest research project funded by the Research Council.

Eleven per cent of Australia's population live in the Basin, an area administered by five State/Territory governments, the Commonwealth and more than 200 local governments. In June 2001 the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council and the Community Advisory Committee released an Integrated Catchment Management Policy which outlined a ten-year approach - based on involving and engaging the people of the region to effect environmental change.

For more information, images and interviews, contact Martin Portus, National Museum of Australia, (02) 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or m.portus@nma.gov.au