Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Health Sciences)

Schools and Centres

Health Sciences

First Supervisor

Professor Stephen Muecke

Second Supervisor

Associate Professor Sandra Wooltorton

Third Supervisor

Honorary Professor Sandy Toussaint


The thesis is comprised of experiential research, poetry, film and peer reviewed publications, and book chapters culminating in twelve chapters and two appendices. The study is in the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia. The study used an Indigenous decolonising research paradigm. It calls for a powerful policy and investment approach to the planning and development of regional governance. The author engaged ‘cooperative participative inquiry’ with leaders from six independent Indigenous Nations. These Nations are connected through Warloongarriy, the First Law for Martuwarra, the Fitzroy River.

First law is the spirit that connects all things and promotes multispecies justice through a unity pathway for collaboration, cooperation, and the sharing of information to ensure peace, harmony, balance, and wellbeing. The Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council position of standing, encapsulates collective guardianship responsibility and original Australians authority to protect Martuwarra’s right to flow as a sacred living entity for generations to come.

The central theme focuses on the responsibility of Indigenous leaders to facilitate knowledge sharing and strengthen community capacity building. Through ‘cooperation, unity, organisation and cultural synthesis’ First Peoples are decolonising through an earth-centred regional governance approach. This approach is focused on improving cultural wellbeing and resilience, and what is required to make the transition to justice, hope and freedom. We seek pathways for cooperation, for collaboration and for sharing information so we can collectively, as ‘family’, co-design the world we want to leave to our children and their children’s children for generations to come. This required a deeper understanding of the impact from continuing colonisation and the collective responsibility of original Australians to sustainably manage our culture and society, lands and living waters. Local Indigenous leaders who are under the guidance of senior cultural elders, believe it is time to send the dream out, to stand with ‘One Mind and One Voice’, to enliven our dream to reach our full potential as human beings. The Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council was established to partner with government in the stewardship of the planet’s greatest and most scarce resource, water. Martuwarra is a living ancestral serpent being, with the right to live and flow. vi After 150 years of invasive colonial development, it is time to do business differently, on just terms.

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