The path to water sovereignty

Wednesday, 6 June 2018
Rene Woods
Fred Hooper
Mr Grant Rigney
Michael Anderson

Across Australia, water is governed through a complex system of laws and policies that fail to meet the needs of Aboriginal communities. While some mechanisms are in place to consider cultural values in water management, they fall short of the legally and beneficially owned water entitlements that are needed to improve the spiritual, cultural, environmental, social and economic conditions of Aboriginal nations. Securing Aboriginal water rights in Australia was the primary purpose of the National Cultural Flows Research Project.

Over the past eight years, this collaborative project has brought together ecological, social and Aboriginal sciences to explore practical ways for First Nations to secure the water needed to fulfil cultural obligations and participate equitably in water governance. The research has demonstrated the overwhelming benefits that can be gained from community-led water management and outlines a range of pathways available to Aboriginal nations to pursue water sovereignty. With so many demands on Australia’s limited water resources, these research findings provide a timely contribution to conversations about how the country’s water management framework can better serve the rights and interests of First Nations.