Aboriginal Water Program snapshot report: Water, Community and Country

To read more about some of the highlights and progress since the establishment of the Aboriginal Water Unit, please read the recently published snapshot report, Water Community and Country. Download a copy of the publication (PDF, 1.4 MB).

Barapa Barapa delivered a series of Aboriginal Waterways Assessments in November 2016. During this process 12 Traditional Owners undertook 12 assessments around Gunbower Forest, Hird Swamp, Lake Elizabeth and Lake Leaghur,

The Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) and the North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) provided support for these assessments. Wetland ecologist, Damien Cook and archaeologist Colin Pardoe also participated in the project as experts in their respective fields.

Barapa Barapa delivered a series of Aboriginal Waterway Assessments in November 2016. During this process 12 Traditional Owners undertook 12 assessments around Gunbower Forest, Hird Swamp, Lake Elizabeth and Lake Leaghur, Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) and the North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) provided support for these assessments. Wetland ecologist Damien Cook and archaeologist Colin Pardoe also participated in the project as experts in their respective fields.

Dja Dja Wurrung is collaborating with the North Central Catchment Management Authority to increase the skills of Traditional Owners in natural resource management. The aims of this project are to develop pathways for young Aboriginal people to pursue careers in environmental management, to promote culture, and to improve the capacity of Dja Dja Wurrung to protect areas of significance.

Tati Tati and Wadi Wadi undertook an Aboriginal Waterways Assessment in July 2017 along the Murray River between Robinvale and Swan Hill. Thirteen Traditional Owners visited 12 sites between Robinvale and Nyah-Vinifera Regional Park. Traditional Owners were accompanied by staff from Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

In December 2014, a group of 10 Traditional Owners worked with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to identify important sites and assess the cultural health of areas from Wangaratta to Falls Creek. This was one of the first projects that used the Aboriginal Waterways Assessment tool.

This project will increase the ability of Dhudhuroa and Waywurru Traditional Owners to negotiate for their water needs on country. Dhudhuroa Elder, Gary Murray, talks about the importance of water for important cultural sites:

“The watering of our cultural places brings, for example, a redgum to life from a seed to a tree with animals and birds. It brings Djinabis (Dhudhuroa possum skin cloaks) to keep warm, shelter for the clans from the elements, water canoes, weapons and carrying tools, and materials for burial rituals.”

Aboriginal waterways assessment along the Ovens River. 2014. Photo by Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

The Wurundjeri cultural values project is a collaboration between the Wurundjeri Council, Melbourne Water and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH).

Through this project, water-dependent cultural values along the Yarra River system are to be documented together with other elements relevant to this specific waterway including additional water requirements and objectives. The focus of this project is to enhance the ability of environmental water managers to achieve Aboriginal environmental outcomes for Wurundjeri in the Yarra River system in both the short-term and longer term.

A key step forward for this project was a Wurundjeri-hosted Aboriginal water knowledge sharing day held on 25 May 2017. This event provided the opportunity for Wurundjeri elders to hear directly from other Traditional Owner nations who have actively worked on Aboriginal water projects.

This project has coincided with many activities along the Yarra and its tributaries that have come about since the Yarra River Projection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Bill 2017 was passed in Victorian Parliament in September 2017.

Further information on the project can be found by contacting VEWH or Melbourne Water.

Visiting eel traps on the Wurundjeri-hosted Aboriginal water knowledge-sharing day. May 2017.

Visiting eel traps on the Wurundjeri-hosted Aboriginal water knowledge-sharing day. May 2017.

The Aboriginal Water Unit is proud of its close association and working relationship with the Water for Country Project Control Group (PCG).

The PCG was created to improve Aboriginal involvement in water planning and management across Victoria's 10 catchment management areas. The PCG has provided a Victorian Aboriginal forum to provide specialist advice and strategic direction.

We support collaboration between water agencies and Traditional Owner groups - download the Aboriginal Participation Guidelines for CMAs  (PDF, 1.8 MB) - and we continue to invest in projects designed to improve opportunities for Aboriginal people in water planning and management:

$4.7 million for Aboriginal values and uses

One of the Aboriginal Water Program’s first priorities was to fund Traditional Owners to take an active role in the management of the State’s water resources. Aboriginal Water Officers (AWOs) play a significant role in promoting informed discussion to support Aboriginal values and uses through Victoria’s existing water resource planning and management processes. AWOs have delivered Aboriginal Water Program projects in partnership with Traditional Owner corporations, Aboriginal communities, catchment management authorities (CMAs) and water agencies.

Over the past four years, we have invested in projects led by Traditional Owners to better define and document Aboriginal values, uses, and aspirations of Victoria’s waterways and catchments. These projects explore cultural mapping, seasonal watering plans, water management plans, and research of cultural and environmental flows.

$5 million for access to water for economic development

In partnership with Traditional Owners, we are working to explore and develop opportunities for Aboriginal enterprises through access to water. The Aboriginal access to water for economic development program has been delivered in three stages:

  • Stage One: Accessing Water Project
  • Stage Two: pilot projects to explore opportunities for Traditional Owners to access water for economic development and to inform planning for future investment.
  • Stage Three: Aboriginal Access to Water Roadmap will be co-designed with Traditional Owners to identify access to water for economic development and water for social, cultural and spiritual outcomes.

For more information about the Aboriginal Water Program or to subscribe to updates please contact the Aboriginal.WaterProgram@delwp.vic.gov.au

Page last updated: 26/10/20