Murray River Country: An Ecological Dialogue with Traditional Owners

murray river country cover

Jessica Weir

Jan, 2009
Anthropology and Archaeology
Environmental Studies
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$34.95 RRP incl. GST


Murray River Country discusses the water crisis from a unique perspective – the intimate stories of love and loss from the viewpoints of Aboriginal peoples who know the inland rivers as their traditional country.  By engaging with the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia's agricultural heartland, Murray River Country goes to the core of our national understandings of who we are and how we can live in this country.

These experiences bring a fresh narrative to contemporary water debates about the Murray-Darling Basin, and how we should look to more sustainable ways to live in Australia as our approach to water is changing in the face of water scarcity, drought, climate change, and water mismanagement.

Weir wants to move readers beyond questions of how much water will be 'returned' to the rivers, to understand that our economy, and our lives, are dependent on river health. She uses different knowledge traditions to reveal unacknowledged assumptions that trap our thinking and disable us from acting. By engaging with the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia's agricultural heartland, Murray River Country goes to the core of our national understandings of who we are and how we can live in this country.

Audio interview with Jessica Weir on Late Night Live with Phillip Adams, 29 September 2009

Reviews and endorsements

This is an important work for ecologists, human geographers, environmental historians and students of Indigenous affairs and cultural relations …It successfully probes the cultural dichotomies that impede efforts to improve the relationships between Indigenous and the ‘new’ Australian cultures that, in spite of urbanisation, still react as a settler society.…Murray River Country deserves a place on the library shelves of all tertiary institutions, senior high schools and communities along with all who care deeply about the fate of one of Australia’s most significant assets.

— Dene Mann, Bookseller Publisher CAMPUS, October 2009

Aboriginal Studies Press is to be congratulated for publishing Jessica Weir's timely book Murray River Country: an Ecological Dialogue with the Traditional Owners, and for the stylish cover and numerous colour plates they include. Unfortunately Weir's book confirms this sad truth that we are all losers because we have chosed to ignore the advice of the Elders regarding the need to 'care for country'.

— Mary-Anne Gale, The University of Adelaide

Place, country, and care are at the heart of this wise book, which is so astutely responsive to the diverse, active Aboriginal individuals and nations of the Murray–Darling Basin. Like the Central Valley of California near where I live, where vast rivers and wetlands have been engineered to produce a precarious and poisoned breadbasket for settler empires, the Murray–Darling Basin cries out for new practices of care from all of its people. Weir’s book gives me hope that these blasted places and the lives of so many species, human and not, might again be whole, in new ways and old.

— Donna Haraway, History of Consciousness Department, University of California at Santa Cruz

Weir demonstrates that there is only one narrative and it encompasses both the claims of the water managers and their critics; both the settler and Indigenous narratives.

— Professor Richie Howitt, Macquarie University

This is a really positive book with some original and creative suggestions for ways forward.

— Dr Libby Robin, Australian National University and the National Museum of Australia

Weir’s originality is innovative and inspirational. She captures the MRC Indigenous people’s holistic approach in reading the ecological statements of managing water and the benefits of this for everyone and the MRC’s ecology.

— Dr Payi-Linda Ford

Last reviewed: 10 Jul 2020