'This paper draws on Indigenous Australian relationships with water as evidenced in the particular cross-cultural and cross-literary collaboration ‘Sustainable Futures’ between the Widjabul/Bundjalung Nations of New South Wales, Australia, and Lismore local government managed water authority, Rous Water. It also references the ecological dialogue with traditional owners put forward by Jessica Weir and the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (Victoria). In both cases non-Indigenes from economics and politics, socio-cultural geography as well as local activist citizens have been invited into dialogue, and into particular Indigenous knowledge systems, to co-create water management strategies for Australia's troubled river systems. The motivation behind such cross-cultural dialogue is hope for a meaningful future of sustainability in which human rights and notions of reverence are imbricated.
The current water crisis, as articulated by Maude Barlow (Senior Advisor on Water to the President of The United Nations General Assembly), provides acute provocation for a radical re-thinking of approaches to water. This paper advances ‘other-wise’ notions of literacy, pedagogy, and epistemology to enable such re-thinking. The water crisis questions the legacy that a western lack of reverence for water, borne of narrow history making, means in current times. This inquiry is predicated on a critical need for understanding the greater properties and meanings of water beyond commodification frameworks, towards socio-cultural and spiritual knowledge and notions of reverence. To that end it locates water firstly as its ‘own self’, as part of a ‘sacred geography’ as Deborah Bird Rose suggests, and further as a pedagogical and geographical meeting place between different territories and ontologies.' (Publisher's summary)