The Victorian government has appointed the first Aboriginal Water Commissioner to the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH) in an effort to recognise Aboriginal water values and improve the state’s waterways and catchments.
VEWH is the independent statutory body responsible for holding and managing water for the environment in Victoria.
Earlier this month, Minister for Water Lisa Neville appointed Rueben Berg to the position. Berg will be responsible for providing VEWH with an understanding of Aboriginal ecological knowledge and values associated with environmental water.
Currently the Director at Westernport Water and a member of the Water for Country Project Control Group, Berg said Aboriginal knowledge is crucial to ensuring the sustainable management of the state’s waterways.
“Waterways have been fundamental to our people across the state for thousands of years… It’s key that Aboriginal people are involved in waterway management so we can share and celebrate our culture and knowledge with all Victorians,” he said.
Berg has extensive governance experience through his involvement in several advisory boards, including Monash University’s Indigenous Advisory Council, the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), Engineers Without Borders and the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute Advisory Board.
Neville said Berg’s appointment is part of the state’s concerted effort to acknowledge and foster the environmental knowledge of traditional owners.
“Recognising Aboriginal values in water is the right thing to do for communities and the environment. It’s a recognition of the importance that water has had to Indigenous communities for thousands of years,” she said.
“Aboriginal communities are at the heart of Water for Victoria and have the experience and knowledge to make key decisions about water holdings and the health of our waterways.”