Looking back to look forward: A timeline of the Fitzroy River catchment

Jorge G. Álvarez-Romero, Milena Kiatkoski Kim, Rachel Buissereth, Robert L. Pressey, David Pannell, Michael Douglas

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Given proposed expansion of developments in northern Australia and current tensions among different interest groups, there is a need to develop new planning approaches that support multiple uses of land and water, while maintaining environmental and cultural values. The development of the timeline of the Martuwarra (Fitzroy River) catchment described in this report was part of a project aimed to demonstrate how to operationalise multi-objective catchment planning supported by scenario thinking, by which stakeholders collaboratively build and assess the outcomes of alternative development futures. The project used participatory scenario planning to guide stakeholders through a systematic and critical examination of possible development trajectories and their associated environmental and socioeconomic outcomes. A multi-stakeholder group worked through a series of workshops to explore alternative development pathways and their outcomes.

The timeline was created during the first project workshop (July 10–11 2018). The workshop included 40 people from 26 organisations across all main interest groups, including the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, state agencies, local governments, mining, agriculture and tourism organisations, environmental NGOs, and Aboriginal organisations representing the views and interests of Traditional Owners. The workshop involved a series of activities for team members to get to know each other, strengthen relationships, and build trust – all critical elements of participatory scenario planning. During the workshop, we discussed the meaning of development, driving forces of land use change, and development initiatives proposed for the region.
An important goal of the first workshop was to create shared understandings of what is happening in the region that could shape the future development of the catchment. Therefore, before exploring the future, we looked back into the past. We created a timeline for the Fitzroy, identifying the events and forces that have shaped how the catchment looks today and could drive land use change in the future. Such events included social movements, policy changes, resource exploration, early irrigation projects, road improvements, and the proclamation of the Native Title Act that recognises the rights and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in land and waters according to their traditional laws and customs, among many others.

This report summarises the process underpinning the creation of a timeline of the Fitzroy River catchment. For this timeline, the group identified the things that have changed the region and shaped the way things are today. Building this timeline helped participants to understand and share ideas about driving forces of land-use change. This activity opened up thinking on how local and external events and processes have shaped and will continue to change the region. The Story Map referred to in this report (Looking back to look forward: A timeline of the Fitzroy River catchment) was created based on the timeline. The online application combines text, images, and maps to describe a series of key events that have shaped the Fitzroy catchment.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAustralia
PublisherJames Cook University
Number of pages117
ISBN (Print)978-0-6489220-8-7
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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