Declaration of Peace with Martuwarra Indigenous Peoples our Lands and Living Waters

Our world has always been about balance, harmony and peace. In 1697 an Italian voyager, a map maker came to the Kimberley and painted the image below and in his language he wrote, “land of peace”.


The Place, our River Country

The Martuwarra (Fitzroy River) is an iconic, heritage listed unregulated river system of global value and significance. For Australia’s original peoples of the Martuwarra, the River was formed in the beginning of time by Nyikina ancestor, Woonyoomboo. Woonyoomboo is the human face of the Martuwarra and in partnership with our sacred ancestral spiritual living being created the Martuwarra valley tracts.[1] Woonyoomboo was an explorer, map maker and scientist who named the places, animals, birds, fish, plants and living water systems. These environmental and cultural values are recognised in both the Western Australian Aboriginal and National Heritage Listings. 

Our world has always been about balance, harmony and peace. In 1697 an Italian voyager, a map maker, came to the Kimberley and painted the image below and in his language he wrote, “land of peace”.

A Union of Traditional Owners

In 2016, Traditional Owners expressed a collective vision for the Martuwarra in the Fitzroy River Declaration[2].  In 2018 we established the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council (MFR Council) as a ‘collective governance model to maintain the spiritual, cultural and environmental health of the catchment’.[3] The Traditional Owner members of the Council are Bunuba Dawangarri Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC, Gooniyandi Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC, Walalakoo Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC, Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC, Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporation and the Yurriyangem Taam native title claim group as represented by the Applicant (Parties). As a result, the MFR Council considers the Martuwarra to be communal property an ‘asset in the commons’ that belongs to all of us. The River must be promoted and protected for the benefit of present and future generations.

As Indigenous leaders of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council we have declared peace with our fellow Australians and our Nation through the Fitzroy River Declaration. See the Fitzroy River Declaration here - ]

Our people believe after 150 years of invasive colonial development that we cannot have peace whilst we are being continuously invaded. These invasive developments are fast tracked through a failure of due diligence and respect at every level. Please see Martuwarra Country Report (2020) it’s time to do just development on just terms here -

In order to do this we want to share an understanding of the ‘Martuwarra River Commons’. As global citizens, we balance the life of our sacred ancestral being, Martuwarra, who embodies the interdependence between all life.

Martuwarra and her peoples have a gift to share with our fellow Australians into how we as a Nation transition from fossil fuels towards a just energy transition, towards the new economies, culture, science, conservation, renewable energy that we require.  

Martuwarra River of Life and her Indigenous peoples are at the ‘Tipping Point’ of foreseeable harm from invasive unjust developments. Importantly we seek new ‘forever economies’, with investment to strengthen our capacity to govern and manage the 'commons' for the greater common good as we have done from the beginning of time. We have solutions for planetary well-being. According to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2020), these solutions include preventing, halting and reversing the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.

We believe it is time to redefine science, justice and equity and create peace with Indigenous peoples in the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Catchment. I welcome you to watch our film Our Common and Shared Future, listen to my Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) podcast

This requires a focus towards investing in the Martuwarra Fitzroy River ‘Commons’ so we ensure that, "Always Was, Always Will Be!" really is true. This requires an earth-centred governance approach to appreciate and value life including climate and multi-species justice. Otherwise, we as humans, will not be able to sustain life in co-existence and harmony with our amazing planet Mother Earth!

We are a registered charity with deductible gift recipient status seeking triennial investment to build the new economies identified in the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Catchment Estate Conservation and Management Plan You can visit the Martuwarra Fitzroy River website here.

I look forward to sharing the work we have progressed and where to next.

Comrade Dr Anne Poelina Chair Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council

Nyikina Warrwa Elder & Martuwarra Guardian

Email[email protected]






Part 1 “First they came for the Land”

Part 2 “Then they came for the Water”


[1] C Hattersley (ed), Nyikina Stories: Woonyooboo and Jandamarra (Madjulla, Inc. 2009)

[2] Fitzroy River Declaration - Available at

[3] Poelina, A., Taylor, K. S., & Perdrisat, I. (2019). Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council: an Indigenous cultural approach to collaborative water governance. Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, 26(3), 236254. doi:10.1080/14486563.2019.1651226

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