Wanyarram Dhelk—which means Good Waterhole in Djaara language—is a priority action of Water Sensitive Bendigo to improve the water health of the Bendigo Creek and its tributaries.

The project, which began in 2016 and continued in two phases, aimed to:

  • improve the cultural values of the Bendigo Creek and create opportunities for Djaara people to actively participate in healing Country through on-ground project delivery
  • build the capacity of Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and Dja Dja Wurrung Enterprises to play a leading role in protecting and enhancing the natural environment
  • provide opportunities for education and awareness about Dja Dja Wurrung culture.

A partnership between Dja Dja Wurrung Enterprises (an arm of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation) and the North Central Catchment Management Authority (the agency responsible for natural resource management in north central Victoria) led the project.

Phase 1 of the project reintroduced ponds into the Bendigo Creek, to mimic what the creek once was—a chain of ponds. Phase 2 involved intercepting stormwater runoff, and channelling it through the chain of ponds, to remove pollutants such as phosphorous and nitrogen which are attached to sediment, and to also reduce turbidity.

The project combined Traditional ecological knowledge with contemporary design and technology in partnership.

Traditional Owner-led projects provide deeper and more layered returns to Djaara people and their investors by providing opportunities to fulfil their aspiration to heal Country and water. Dja Dja Wurrung members have deep connections with the waterways and understand how Bendigo Creek should look, smell, sound and feel. Hearing Traditional Owners say that the creek didn’t smell right prompted investigations into pollutant loads entering the creek. Removing sediment and weedy in-stream vegetation has formed open ponds that sound and smell as they should, allowing the water to heal.

On-ground works were guided by the Dhelkunya Dja Country Plan 2014–34, which outlines the Djaara people’s vision for Country, and describes the strategic framework of goals and objectives. The Wanyarram Dhelk project demonstrates a joint commitment to achieving these goals and objectives, which include:

  • Our rivers and waterways are healthy and meet the needs of our people and land
  • Our Country continues to nourish us by providing bush tucker and medicine
  • Dja Dja Wurrung customs and practices are alive and respected—keeping us connected to our past, our present and our future.

The project has delivered many benefits, including community engagement with and awareness of traditional water management practices, food and stories, and a naturalised waterway that improves water quality, habitat, biodiversity and natural aesthetics.

This project is a good model for combining Traditional Ecological Knowledge about water management with contemporary waterway design and construction.

Wanyarram Dhelk is also a good example of restoring a degraded urban waterway. It shows that it’s important to:

  • provide many and varied opportunities for Traditional Owners to get on Country—when water is healthy, plants are healthy and can be used for traditional / customary practice
  • gather information through deep listening—Traditional Owners can provide deep insights into waterway health using indicators of smells, sights and sounds
  • gather a ‘gang’ or network of stakeholders to drive innovation.

Many people and organisations contributed to this project:

  • Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and Dja Dja Wurrung Enterprises
  • North Central Catchment Management Authority
  • Coliban Water
  • City of Greater Bendigo
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

Download our case study about Wanyarram Dhelk.

Last updated: 29th Sep 2020