More than 200 water professionals will gather in the country’s heart this week to discuss the challenges faced by regional, rural, remote and Indigenous communities.

The first-ever Voices for the Bush conference, being held in Alice Springs, will bring together decision-makers and policymakers as well as First Nations voices for remote communities and local governments for two days of discussions on water management.

Gomeroi man Dr Phil Duncan has almost four decades of experience working in the water arena and will be delivering a keynote speech on the opening day of the conference.

He’s advocating for stronger uptake of First Nations knowledge in managing and planning for the future of water resources around the country.

“We as a people have existed on the driest inhabited continent on earth since time immemorial. We have seen the shifting sands, the shifting lands, the changing flow regimes. We’ve witnessed the severe detrimental impacts on communities, yet Aboriginal people have stayed on our homelands, we have worked our way through these extreme events – fire, drought, climate change – and continue to.

And it’s been based on what I believe is a cultural science…based on knowing when to hunt and gather, and when to take the appropriate actions to protect family and community.

Dr Duncan said a balance between economy and environment and culture needs to be achieved.

“I still don’t see any willingness for dialogue or interaction, for people just to sit down and explore and identify a process of finding the balance.”

I want to throw a challenge to all the delegates – please come with a wondering mind. Please come with a willingness to sit and listen, and learn, and understand that we have this cultural obligation. You can assist us in engaging that cultural obligational and protecting the resource which protects the people, the families, the clans and the community.”