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The Richmond River Project
Richmond River
Name of city/settlements along the river:
Casino, Kyogle, Lismore, Coraki, Woodburn, Broadwater, Ballina

The Richmond Riverkeeper Association emerged from the desperate need for new governance structures to address the state of the catchment. Its formation was motivated by the devastating 2022 floods, and it aims to give the rivers of the Richmond River catchment a community voice.  Our founding members include community representatives, academics from Environmental Science, and Environmental History disciplines, Landcarers with over 30 years of experience in riparian restoration, teachers, creative practitioners, and land stewards with deep connections to the rivers of the Richmond catchment.

The project involves many subthemes based around community and indigenous values, community aspirations for river health, water bugs citizen science, tracing historical land use and governance, Landcare, water quality and riparian restoration.

The Richmond River has the poorest water quality rating of coastal rivers in New South Wales, Australia. It suffers from a historical misunderstanding of the connections between land use and water quality. In the 1800's the timber industry reduced what is known as the "Big Scrub Rainforest" to just 1% of its original size, leading to massive erosion and sedimentation issues.  The widescale draining of wetlands for agricultural purposes led to the exposure of Acifd Sulfate Soils resulting in acidification of floodplain river waters.  The removal of water-tolerant wetland vegetation has caused widespread blackwater (low dissolved oxygen) events, particularly during rainfall and flooding.   Five local government areas manage the catchment area, which disconnects upstream and downstream perceptions and management activities.  The water quality in much of the river is not suitable for swimming which affects community perceptions of the river, how they engage with it and value it.

Many homes were inundated across the catchment during the worst recorded flood event in 2022 and infrastructure, such as sewage treatment plants, was severely damaged.  The flood clean-up highlighted the poor state of the river.  Much needs to be done to improve river health and flood resilience. This project brings the community together through the RiverKeeper Association to engage positively with the river and highlight to policymakers and funding bodies the community's aspirations for the future health of its waterways and catchment condition.

Grow the Richmond RiverKeeper membership and provide a voice for the community to influence decision-making and funding to improve river health. Our multidisciplinary team is connected through their passion and a common goal of improving the river's health.  Our research has five focal areas: water quality, aquatic ecology, catchment management, community uses, and communication and engagement. We vision improvements in river health by supporting improvements in land management practices, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem restoration and to document this by measuring backward and forwards.

The members of the Ricmnond RiverKeepers work to gain funding for research and on-ground works to improve river health.  The organization provides a gateway for connecting with the community and supports the community's engagement with river activities. Our current projects include:

  • Community surveys and workshops to understand and document how the community values their river, how they use it, and their aspirations for its future health.
  • Indigenous engagement and storytelling
  • Contaminant assessment of the Richmond River estuary and oyster health.
  • Citizen science to engage the community in 'water bugs' and document freshwater biodiversity.
  • Archiving and documenting the history of the Richmond River and its land use changes.
Amanda Reichelt-Brushett
Research and community engagement. President of Richmond RiverKeepers
Adele Wessell
Grayson Cooke
Interdisciplinary scholar and media artist
Richmond Riverkeepers
Community Organisation
Brendan Cox
Freshwater Ecologist and PhD candidate
Emily Horton
Community Engagement (Honours student)
Endang Jamal
Estuary contaminants research (PhD candidate)