SA Water launches reconciliation action plan in Murray Bridge

Reconciliation is about bringing people together, being aware of the past and working towards the future.

It is made real when Aboriginal employees thrive and government agencies work hand in hand with Aboriginal businesses.

So says a document SA Water officially launched at Ninkowar last Thursday: its reconciliation action plan.

Executives and front-line workers gathered with Ngarrindjeri leaders to celebrate the plan, which describes the ways SA Water will nurture its Aboriginal employees and cooperate with the traditional custodians of the water it now manages.

Chairman Lew Owens said the Ngarrindjeri had a deeper understanding of water and the River Murray than SA Water could ever have, but that the two had the same interests.

"SA Water has a common interest with the Ngarrindjeri about protecting waterways, the lakes and Coorong for all South Australians,” he said.

"Our commitment today is to look for ways we can go forward together ... to ensure the future of water in South Australia."

He said SA Water would partner with Aboriginal businesses, remain dedicated to remote Aboriginal communities and help Aboriginal employees grow by giving them experience in different parts of the business.

But David Rathman, who co-chaired the committee that produced the plan, said it would only succeed if ordinary employees embraced it.

"One of the great tragedies of Australia, unlike New Zealand or Canada, is Australians have failed to embrace their own story," he said.

"For the Ngarrindjeri people, this river, Ngurunderi and his story, chasing Ponde, these stories need to be told.

"It's about building relationships, building respect and creating opportunities."

Setting out a plan for action was more important than symbolic gestures like displaying Aboriginal art, he said.

It's about building relationships, building respect and creating opportunities. - David Rathman

Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority chair Eunice Aston said cooperation with SA Water could help maintain the unbreakable connection between Aboriginal people and their country.

"We need to be making sure our country is clean and healthy, our water is clean and healthy, and look after our people because otherwise ... we wouldn't be able to live,” she said.

About 40 of SA Water's 1500 employees are Aboriginal.

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