Legislative Council: Tuesday, February 06, 2024


Sugar Shack Wetlands

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (15:40): My question is to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Will the minister inform the council about his recent visit to the Sugar Shack Wetlands in the Riverland?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:40): I thank the honourable member for his question and his interest in regional parts of South Australia. I follow his social media quite closely and know that he is a regular visitor right across parts of South Australia, so I would know he is using free media to promote regional South Australia, which I think is very commendable.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: That's true. Last week, I had the opportunity to visit a number of places across the Riverland and see the resilience firsthand after the devastating floods just over a year ago, and it was a great opportunity to meet with members of various Aboriginal communities to talk about particularly the upcoming Voice elections, which many people were very keen about, and about which I posted on free media, social media.

It is a remarkable natural environment in that part of South Australia and it was certainly on full display on my visit to the Sugar Shack Wetlands Complex which spans along the River Murray from near Overland Corner to near Kingston On Murray, and down to Mannum. The Sugar Shack Wetlands are owned and managed by the Mannum Aboriginal Community Association Incorporated (MACAI). The Sugar Shack Wetlands Complex has been cared for by generations of traditional owners and today their knowledge is embedded in the planning and management of the wetland, recognising the understanding of the relationship between healthy lands and waters and all living things.

Ongoing management of the wetlands is a collaborative effort between MACAI, the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board's wetlands team, and the Department for Environment and Water's infrastructure and operations team. I was grateful for the opportunity to meet with members of the wetlands team and to hear firsthand about the collaborative efforts to manage these wetlands, and how closely they liaise with representatives of MACAI and the local Aboriginal community.

Members of the wetlands team were eager to share—which I found very valuable—the way that they use the cultural knowledge that traditional owners bring to the table, and explained the role that Aboriginal custodians still play in the careful scheduling and management of practices such as drying cycles to mitigate the impact of human intervention in more recent years into the Riverland system by such things as pumping water in and out of temporary basins. Explained to me were the mutually beneficial relationship that has developed between the wetlands team and traditional owners with each learning much from the other, and their shared hopes for expanding the ongoing engagement with traditional owners in the area.

The co-management of the Sugar Shack Wetlands Complex demonstrates the invaluable benefit of seeking out the many decades of knowledge handed down, through sometimes up to thousands of generations of awareness of traditional owners, in the care and custody of our natural environment. I would like to thank the wetlands team, members of the Aboriginal community and MACAI, for their tireless work in maintaining this remarkable part of our state.