Once the water dries up that’s it -there is nothing else!

story by Jasmyn Sheppard

“First Nations’ connection to Country will be broken if waterholes across Australia continue to be poisoned and polluted.” Dr John Binda Reid.


Dr John Binda Reid’s ground-breaking study looked at First Nations migrations and their connections to waterholes and found the poisoning of remote billabongs is the equivalent of polluting Sydney Harbour.

“I tried to share the story of the waterhole using different storytelling methods, and the idea that the waterhole is a sacred place was one of the ways of trying to get non-Aboriginal people to understand that this place is a spiritual place. Prior to the 1850s, the waterhole was a pristine place where people could go and enjoy the environment, the atmosphere of socializing around the waterhole, of performing ceremonies around the waterhole, of developing knowledge around the waterhole, and of transferring knowledge around the waterhole. It was a place where you could practice spirituality.”

Dr Reid and his cultural mentor Simon Tjapangardi Fisher from Yuendumu meeting in Adelaide to discuss aspects of his PhD study.

The Research Fellow from Charles Darwin University interviewed representatives from 11 communities and six language groups, over six years, to study the ‘drivers’ of Aboriginal male migration in central Australia.

Dr Reid spoke with CAAMA about his research which has found waterholes were critical for the ceremonial, cultural and social life of Aboriginal tribes who lived in remote environments. Dr Reid says Governments need to understand the importance these water sources play not just in Aboriginal culture but also for the future of our country.

Listen here:

Dr Reid now works with the Gawler Ranges Aboriginal Native Title Corporation’s Working on Country Indigenous Ranger group where he translates important findings from his PhD study into cultural training programs so that everyone gets a grounded understanding of the importance of the waterhole to knowledge production.

The Gawler ranges S.A…supplied

story by Jasmyn Sheppard