In this unit, students explore the Murray River after engaging with the Wamba Wamba multi-touch book. They investigate the river’s geographical features and trace the impact of historical events, notably colonisation, on its health. Students identify the contemporary challenges facing the river, deepening their understanding of its current state and sustainability concerns. This unit fosters environmental stewardship and advocates for honouring First Nations cultural connections, encouraging students to reflect on their role as protectors of vital water ecosystems.



At the heart of Jajoo Warrngara are the communities that lead the work on Country. We would like to acknowledge the Wamba Wamba Custodians, who proudly shared this story, and pay our respects to the Elders, both past and present. SharingStories thanks Wamba Wamba Traditional Custodian Uncle Ron Murray for sharing this cultural knowledge.



First-person Cultural knowledge has been generously shared by Wamba Wamba Traditional Custodians and Elders, including Aunty Stephanie Charles, Uncle Ron Murrary and Sandra Kropinyeri in order to create tailored Classroom Protocols. The Protocols are designed to  guide educators to share the stories and cultural knowledges in the most appropriate way, thus supporting the cultural safety of both educators and students while sharing the story Muyi Mir and Pondi in classrooms. It is strongly recommended that educators read the Classroom Protocols prior to teaching this unit.


Essential Questions 

  • How does the Murray River hold cultural significance for First Nations peoples in Australia, and what is the importance of understanding and respecting this cultural connection by all Australians?
  • What are the geographical features of a river?
  • Why is the health and sustainability of the Murray River important for both the environment and the people who depend on it for farming, leisure and businesses?
  • How have historical events, including colonisation, impacted the Murray River, and what are the contemporary challenges it faces in terms of health and sustainability?
  • In what ways can individual and collective actions contribute to the preservation and well-being of rivers?


Links to Resources

Cultural Protocols

View the teaching protocols for this unit.

Teacher Resources

View the teacher resource for this unit.


This is the PDF for this unit.

Under Threat - The Health of the Murray Lesson 1

Lesson 1

  • Form a yarning circle to discuss the Welcome. Some questions to support your conversation are as follows: 
  • What is the purpose of a Welcome and a smoking ceremony?
  • How did Uncle Ron use the leaves in the Ceremony?
  • What did each leaf represent?
  • What significance do smoking ceremonies have in First Nations histories and cultures? What other cultures around the world use smoke or fire as an integral part of their ceremonial practices? How might we find this out? 
  • Engage with the 'Pondi' story in the Wamba Wamba Multi-Touch Book, have students pair up to discuss their observations. Encourage students to identify some of the notable places mentioned in the story, such as the Murray River and Lake Alexandrina, and reflect on how throughout time, Dreaming stories have explained the creation of an area and its significance. 


  • In pairs, students are to interact with the Discovery Map in the Wamba Wamba Multi-Touch Book on pg 70, in particular, the Murray River section in the map.
  • Students complete a KWL Chart to explore what they know and want to know about the Murray River. 


  • Have you heard about the Murray River? What details do you know about this River? Where is it located? How far is the Murray River from our location? Do any of our local tributaries have a connection to the Murray River? 
  • How might a deeper understanding of Wamba Wamba Culture and the importance of the Murray River promote cultural awareness and environmental stewardship in the community? 
Mark as complete

Under Threat - Health of the Murray Lesson 2


  • Complete the Geography of a River activity sheet
  • Students are tasked with labelling specific geographical features of the Murray River that were discussed in the lesson as follows:
  1. Source: Label the river'sstarting point,where it originates, such as a mountain, spring, or lake. (For the Murray River, it originates in the Australian Alps within Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales, near the border with Victoria) 
  2. Tributaries: Mark and label the smaller streams or rivers that flow into the main river and identify some of the significant tributaries. In the following example the two major tributaries are the Darling River and Murrumbidgee River.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_River#/media/File:Map_of_the_Murray_River,_south-eastern_Australia.tif
  3. Main Channel: Trace and depict the path of the main river channel, highlighting curves and meanders. (The Murray meanders through various landscapes and regions, but maintains a consistent and identifiable central course, originating from the Australian Alps, through New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and eventually flows into Lake Alexandrina in South Australia).
  4. Riverbanks: Indicate the two sides of the river, commonly referred to as the left and right riverbanks.
  5. Mouth: Label the point where the river flows into a larger body of water, such as an ocean, sea, or another river. (Lake Alexandrina is a great example of the Murray River's mouth). 
  • Provide students with craft materials such as large sheets of paper, markers, coloured paper, and other art supplies to begin creating a large-scale representation of the Murray River on a classroom wall. This display will serve as an ongoing project, allowing for further additions and enhancements in future lessons.


  • After completing the worksheet and creating the classroom display of the Murray River, how does visually representing the Murray River's anatomy enhance your understanding of its importance and its role in the local environment? 
  • What type of land and developments are located around the Murray River? How might these developments impact the local environment?
Mark as complete

Under Threat - Health of the Murray Lesson 3


Lesson 3

  • Begin the lesson by recapping some of the insights gained in previous lessons, focusing on topics related to the Murray River, such as  its significance to the Wamba Wamba people and the river's anatomy.
  • Ask the students to contemplate other entities or organisms that rely on the Murray River They should consider a diverse range of dependents including animal species, plant life, local communities and various industries.
  • Next, share the BTN (Behind the News) film "River Kids," an exploration of the narratives of those reliant on the Murray River, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8Y71IbRGfo.



  • Following the film, organise students into pairs or small groups. Assign each student a specific subject- such as people, animals, industry, etc.-to research and explore how they depend on the Murray River.
  • Instruct students to research their assigned topic using credible sources such as books, websites, or educational resources. The focus should be on understanding the chosen subject's relationship with the Murray River. Useful sources for their research include https://www.mdba.gov.au/basin/why-murray-darling-basin-matters/our-reliance-basin-water.
  • Following their research, students are to design a Fact Sheet that visually represents their chosen subject. They can utilise  drawings, printed images, or a combination of both. Ensure students provide key facts highlighting why the subject relies on the Murray River, its role in the ecosystem, and any other interesting information.
  • Students can then present their findings to the class and subsequently add this information to the growing Classroom Display.



  • Reflect on the many animal species, plants, communities, or industries that rely on the river, do you believe their needs align with the needs of the river's ecosystem?
Mark as complete

Under Threat – Health of the Murray Lesson 4

Lesson 4


  • Embark on a collective journey through time by researching and constructing a visual Timeline of the various factors impacting the Murray River throughout history. Be sure to include some of these key dates
  • Approx 60 million years ago: Formation of the Murray River

Mark the river's origins and its birth on the timeline.

  • Pre-1800s: Indigenous Custodianship

Indigenous communities, especially the Wamba Wamba people, nurtured a profound connection with the Murray River, relying on it for sustenance and cultural practices. Consider reaching out to your local Custodians to uncover the significance of rivers in your region.

  • 1800s: European Exploration and Settlement

European settlers embarked on exploration, leading to the establishment of settlements along the Murray River. Witness how this era altered land use, transforming areas for agriculture and infrastructure.

  • 1850s: Gold Rush Era

The discovery of gold triggered a surge in population and economic activities along the Murray River. Explore how mining activities and an influx of people reshaped the river's ecosystem.

  • Late 1800s: River Trade and Transportation

The Murray River evolved into a vital route for transporting goods. Paddle steamers navigated the river, while locks and weirs transformed its landscape.

  • 1900s: Water Management and Irrigation

Witness the growth of agriculture and the implementation of water management schemes. Dams, weirs, and channels were introduced, altering the natural flow of the river.

  • 1970s: Environmental Awareness

Increased environmental awareness prompted recognition of the Murray River's degradation. Initiatives to combat pollution and over-extraction of water took root.

  • 2000s: Murray-Darling Basin Plan

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan emerged, aiming to address over-extraction and ensure sustainable water management, balancing environmental, social, and economic needs.

  • Recent Years: Drought and Environmental Challenges

Prolonged droughts and climate change intensified challenges. Reduced water flow, algal blooms, and fish kills raised concerns about the Murray River's health.

  • Today: Stewardship and Restoration Effort

Contemporary efforts focus on community stewardship, environmental restoration projects, and collaboration to protect and restore the health of the Murray River.

  • Discuss the timeline and its implications. Then, add this narrative to the Murray River wall display.


  • Reflect on how the historical events, including the impacts of colonisation outlined in the Timeline, have influenced the current challenges faced by the Murray River. Consider the collective responsibility to contribute to its restoration and health. How can our actions align with the principles of stewardship and sustainable practices to ensure the well-being of the Murray River for future generations?
Mark as complete

Under Threat – Health of the Murray Lesson 5

  • Following on from the previous lessons, engage students in a discussion about their responsibilities as local citizens and explore ways  they can actively contribute to the preservation of the Murray River or other rivers in their region. 
  • Discuss ways in which students can collaborate with  First Nations Custodians to protect the Murray River. This could involve participating in community initiatives, respecting cultural practices, or contributing to environmental restoration projects.


  • Provide students with the materials needed to design posters that highlight ways to preserve and protect the Murray River or other local rivers. These could include eco-friendly practices, waste reduction, replanting native species or raising awareness about the importance of clean water. Offer options for creating posters digitally such as on Adobe, or through hands-on art methods. 
  • Encourage students to reach out to local First Nations Custodians or relevant authorities to gather information about the health of their local rivers.



  • Consider how your individual actions, as well as collective efforts, contribute to the preservation and health of the Murray River or other local rivers. How can your engagement with local Custodians foster a sense of responsibility and stewardship toward these vital water ecosystems?
Mark as complete



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