Traditional Owners from across 20,000 square kilometres of the Northern Territory have travelled to Canberra to ask for protection of the Roper River from threats posed by new water intensive industries in the catchment and to be at the forefront of decision-making for the river.
Representatives of communities across the catchment will present a 13-metre hand-painted cultural map and associated statement, which has been signed by hundreds of remote community residents, to the Federal Parliament.
The TOs said proposals to take hundreds of thousands of litres of surface and groundwater from rivers including the Roper for big industries including cotton, fracking and mining, were putting the Territory's river systems at risk.
The cotton industry has flagged 100,000 hectares will be bulldozed for crops in the Northern Territory by 2030, which could lead to a Murray Darling-style disaster, they said.
Traditional Owners claim thy have not been properly consulted about these plans and their cultural knowledge and community aspirations have not been considered.
"We've got so many important springs to protect," Traditional Owner Naomi Wilfred said about her Country near Minyerri, 580km south-east of Darwin.
"We made that map to show Canberra about the water connection.
"The threat we're worrying about is cotton is coming in and I think we'll have no water left.
"We want to tell them to stop taking water and start listening to the rightful Traditional Owners."
Ms Wilfred said she and other TOs want to see the river protected "for our future generations".
The river catchment - which covers an area about the size of Tasmania - boasts some of the last intact native savanna and free-flowing tropical rivers in Australia, but the future health of the river is under immediate threat.
The delegation has called on the Australian Government to acknowledge their Indigenous water rights, to implement proper consultation mechanisms about major water decisions, and for the whole of the river catchment - including important cultural and dreaming sites - to be protected.
Artist Simon Normand, who worked with communities to create the map, said the map was an Aboriginal way of showing "their world to an outside audience".
"It is the culmination of 18 months' collaboration with communities in south-east Arnhem Land, who are extremely worried about their river system being irreversibly destroyed," he said.
"The map draws on more than 25 years of working with elders who want their songlines preserved."
Mitch Hart from the Pew Charitable Trusts, who supported the delegation to travel to Canberra, said communities that live along the Roper relied on it for survival and were extremely concerned about its future.
"Water hungry industries, such as industrialised cotton production, are setting up shop along rivers like the Roper - despite the damage caused by over-extraction, bulldozing and pollution," he said.
"The Federal Government has an opportunity to respond to this powerful message from Traditional Owners and support communities who rely on these rivers.
"We cannot let mistakes made in the Murray Darling be repeated on the Roper."
The map was officially unveiled at an event in the Mural Hall of the Australian Parliament on November 28.
The event featured a cultural performance by songmen from Numbulwar.