Banking on Aboriginal water property rights: New approaches modelling cultural and economic water property rights

Wednesday, 6 June 2018
Dr Virginia Marshall

The comparatives of Indigenous experience around the world assists us in recognising pathways to develop our strengths. But also to identify the weaknesses in failed approaches for establishing an economy. Aboriginal sovereignty in Australia is unique to the communal laws of its communities. Like land, water is sacred. However, Australia's national water reform has created separate proprietary value systems such as entitlements and allocations in water which present challenges to the entry of Aboriginal water rights. Some strategies embraced by Indigenous peoples such as the statutory recognition of the legal standing of rivers as a response to colonisation and the over exploitation of water are flawed. Leveraging native title rights in water and cultural economies in the development of northern Australia carries risks and challenges for native title claimants, native title holders and their respective organisations. The valuable lessons from the Canadian treaty process informs us to be cognizant of the potential erosion of Aboriginal water rights and interests in Australia, and help identify new opportunities.