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Border residents reveal strong connection to rivers

Tuesday 6 September 2022

A La Trobe University study supported by AlburyCity has found that Albury-Wodonga community residents have strong connections to water, particularly the Murray/Milawa river, and see it as a highly significant part of their lives.

Of 163 people surveyed for the Multidimensional Meanings of Water for the Albury/Wodonga Community report, 91 per cent of respondents visited the Murray/Milawa river for recreation, and 82 per cent felt the river was at risk from multiple factors, such as the impacts of climate change, government policy and use by large-scale irrigators.

Presented to both AlburyCity and Wodonga Council this week, the study highlights how a rapidly changing climate is resulting in more frequent and prolonged extreme heat events, periods of drought, bushfires and rainfall variability.

Lead researcher and senior lecturer in social work and social policy at La Trobe University, Dr Heather Downey, said while these issues are often discussed in economic terms, water also has myriad meanings for health, culture and identity in river communities like Albury-Wodonga.

“We know that water is a valuable commodity in economic terms, but this report highlights the many meanings that water has for this river community, and its vital role in rural sustainability and liveability, as well as individual health and wellbeing,” Dr Downey said.

Dr Downey said the survey responses also showed people use the river regularly for diverse recreational purposes.

“Almost all the respondents visit the Murray/Milawa river for recreation – for activities like walking, jogging, fishing and swimming – and many would like to see more direct formal access to the river, and more done to improve the health of the river,” Dr Downey said.

AlburyCity Mayor Kylie King said Council were pleased to collaborate with La Trobe University to support the survey.
“The river is such an important part of life for the Albury Wodonga community, with locals and visitors using it in so many different ways,” Mayor King said.

“The survey findings give us valuable insights which can be used for future planning, ensuring we can all continue to enjoy this wonderful natural resource.”

Wodonga Mayor Kev Poulton said the study provided important support for efforts to protect the region’s waterways for future generations.

“The Murray and its tributaries are not only critical to our agricultural and visitor economies, they’re also the basis for our way of life as river communities,” Mayor Poulton said.

“But we also know that our fragile rivers are under pressure so it’s very important to document the ways in which the rivers matter to us, and from there, how we can work together to ensure we can continue to benefit from our rivers and lakes in a safe and sustainable way.”

The survey also found Albury-Wodonga residents would like more places along the river designated as Aboriginal land, are committed to conserving water in domestic settings, strongly value a connection to nature and recreation along the river and see the river as a vital part of the region’s culture and identity.

163 people responded to the survey which was distributed via QuestionPro and was open 8th September to 19th October 2021 to residents of Albury-Wodonga.