Dharriwaa: The Narran Lakes

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The Narran Lakes (Dharriwaa) in north-west NSW are a site of cultural and ecological significance. As part of the Western Catchment Management Authority’s (now Western Local Land Services) Through Our Eyes Project, stories have been gathered about the  cultural and ecological importance of this special part of Australia.

The Narran Lakes are a deeply spiritual place for Aboriginal people. As Brenda McBride explains in the interview belowt, the river system has played an important role for Aboriginal people as a source of food and medicine, and as a meeting place. The area is the site of many important Indigenous artifacts, including a rock quarry. In the past, these rocks were used to make tools and to trade between tribes.


In the Narran Lakes area, there is an abundance of Indigenous food, including several varieties of bush tomatoes, wild parsley and basil, and bush spinach. Historically, the Indigenous people used this area and the food resources seasonally, allowing replenishment. This ‘working with the seasons’ is a clue about how to manage natural resources sustainably.


Ted Fields describes the Narran Lakes System as a critical part of the area’s biodiversity. He discusses the benefit of the water on the animals and plants in the area, for example kangaroos, emus, birds and Red Gum Tress. He also expresses concern for the future of the Narran Lakes as the water flow is now regulated and this has negative impacts on the wetland ecosystem.

As mentioned in Ted’s video, in 2008, following many years of drought, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission (now Murray-Darling Basin Authority) purchased water from upstream to initiate a huge bird breeding event on the Narran Laks. This was in response to Indigenous leaders’ concern about the wildlife in the area, and was highly successful.  Ongoing water allocation for Narran Lakes holds considerable potential to protect and restore parts of this precious wetland ecosystem.

The Narran Lakes are an area of significance, both locally and nationally. In her video, Brenda McBride describes the area as a ‘keeping place’, as it is the site of many important Indigenous artifacts. Similarly, Ted Fields describes the Narran Lakes System as a part of the Indigenous Australian Story. It is a very special area and one that we can protect using  both scientific and Indigenous cultural knowledge.

Related stories on Riverspace are Through our Eyes and Baiames-ngunnhu- Brewarrina Fish Traps.

Article adapted from the Through Our Eyes Project videos and photos courtesy of the project.


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