About the program

The Water, Country and Community Program is designed to better include Aboriginal people in water management and to reconnect communities to water for cultural, economic, customary, and spiritual purposes.

It does this by funding Aboriginal Water Officers, the Aboriginal Water Officer Network and projects to better progress Aboriginal access to and management of water, for self-determined purposes.

Stage 1

Stage 1 of the Water, Country and Community Program invited existing Traditional Owner partners to submit an expression of interest for their water-related priorities. During 2021, 17 agreements were extended for Aboriginal Water Officers and 13 funding agreements were executed for projects. The proposed positions and projects have various outputs and outcomes as self-determined by Traditional Owner organisations, with a particular focus on enabling long-term water planning and strategies. Click on the names of the funding recipients below to learn more about their projects.

Stage 2

Stage 2 of the Water, Country and Community Program is an open grant round designed to support Traditional Owners and Victorian First Peoples not previously funded under stage 1. Find out more about Stage 2 grants.

Funded Self-determined Water Projects

This three year project will allow Bargeni Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (BGLC) to prepare a water strategy for long-term planning and management. This will be developed through activities such as community meetings, feasibility studies, archaeological reports, and support from catchment management authorities. A more structured approach will allow for greater strategic mapping and planning of water-related priorities for spiritual, customary, social, economic and other self-determined purposes. BGLC has identified opportunities to further their work on the Glenelg River in particular, where collaboration has occurred in the past with other Traditional Owner organisations and catchment management authorities on the issue of cultural flows.

This three year project will adopt a coordinated approach to identify, assess, and understand cultural assets within the Powlett River. Delivering the project over several years will allow for critical information to be observed and captured across seasonal and annual time scales. Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (BLCAC) intends to work with catchment management authorities in the identification and protection of sites that are culturally significant, which will compliment and contribute to the direct management of the river. This will allow BLCAC to provide advice on cultural values, for example when there is a need to artificially open the estuary.

This three year project will develop a Djandak wide Gatjin (water) management plan that reflects Dja Dja Wurrung's values for Gatjin. It aims to be a culturally and technically informed document which will enable equitable discussion and negotiation over water shares and allocations. Currently there is a high level of understanding of the biological values along waterways that are the life blood of Djandak, however documented understanding of cultural values including the care of Murrup (spirits) of these biological values and their connection to other parts of Djandak is lacking, contributing to inequitable participation in water policy. The management plan will be developed through Aboriginal Waterway Assessments and other technical support.

This three year project will enable a number of activities that will support Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation (EMAC) to participate equitably as rights holders in the water management sector. This includes a whole Country plan refresh, employment of a Natural Resource Manager, development of the Eastern Maar Bio-Cultural Landscapes Strategy as well as the assessment and documentation of cultural values along the Hopkins River system. These support EMAC's approach is that everything on, under and above Country is connected, and needs to be managed as a system. The project has co-investment with the Urban Waterways Team to align with broader aspirations.

This one year project will deliver a detailed native fish hatchery design to be located on Ned’s Corner Station, using key information from the First People of the Millewa-Mallee Aboriginal Corporation’s (FPMMAC) fish hatchery business plan, that was supported through an earlier funding initiative of the Aboriginal Water Program. An Indigenous Aquatic Operations Manager will also be employed, in readiness for operation of the facility. FPMMAC has started discussions with the Victorian Fisheries Authority to set up a memorandum of understanding about supplying native fish to Victoria through the project, as part of an election commitment to buy and stock eight million native fish.

This three year project will help develop decision making frameworks for the Gunaikurnai people on how they want to manage their cultural water. It will also support valuable activities to support the cultural values of the Gunaikurnai  and their cultural obligations to Country. These include Gunaikurnai Community gatherings to yarn about the two gigalitres of water in the Mitchell River returned to GLaWAC by the Victorian Government, and preparing a Cultural Water Management Plan for that water. The project will also incorporate the work being undertaken on Country on cultural values and uses, including Reading Country Assessments, Aboriginal Waterway Assessments, water quality monitoring and E-DNA testing on key waterways.

"Access to water is integral to the Gunaikurnai people to restore customary practices, protect cultural values and uses, gain economic independence and heal Country. Cultural water enables the Gunaikurnai Community to self-determine how and where the water can help achieve priorities for healthy Country and healthy mob."

— Gunaikurnai Whole of Country Plan >

This three year project will utilise existing water aspirations for the Glenelg River and Budj Bim, including opportunities for cultural flows and water entitlements. Other priority activities identified include a Glenelg River Seasonal Calendar Monitoring plan, Glenelg River Rangers feasibility study and business case for training, an archaeological report on the history of Glenelg River Catchment, as well as water testing, fish surveys and waterway maintenance. Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation is working in partnership with other Traditional Owner organisations and the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority. A Project Advisory Committee will be formed to share information, thoughts and ideas on how best to manage this waterway in a culturally appropriate and sustainable way for all the species that rely on the river, and for the community who access it.

Photo of three of this program's participants on a riverbank.

Taken at Wannon-Glenelg Junction. From left to right, Charlie Davie: Indigenous Partnership Coordinator for the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority, Nicole Hudson: Aboriginal Water Officer for Gunditj-Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, David New: Burrandies Aboriginal Corporation. Credit: Nicky Hudson.>

This three year project will enable the continuation of the Barapa Wamba Water for Country project that was first initiated in 2013. The extended funding will allow the steering committee membership to grow and for more community members to be reached, as well as exploring and mapping more country for Barapa Wamba to take an active self-determined role in land and water. Surveying and monitoring activities undertaken will enable Barapa and Wamba Wemba's cultural values to be respectfully incorporated into the regional processes for water management, such as environmental watering management plans, seasonal watering proposals, and programs monitoring conditions for intervention.

An overhead photo taken near sunset or sunrise f a lagoon without water and the water is replaced by grass.

Margooya Lagoon dry. Credit: Environmental Justice Australia.

This three year project will deliver outcomes relating to water, land and the environment through gatherings, events and workshops. The goals are to revive traditional water knowledge and cultural activities, observe and monitor Country, evaluate and manage the health of waterways, and provide opportunities for greater participation in water management and planning for Traditional Owners. Several outcomes focus on Margooya Lagoon, which has significant cultural and spiritual impact to Tati Tati people. The revitalisation of Margooya Lagoon will enhance the opportunities for Tati Tati's access to water for self-determined purposes, and to preserve the Lagoon’s health for future generations.

"We need to be responsible for water on Tati Tati Country, using our knowledge and priorities. Only then will we see healthy outcomes for mob, water, and the environment."

    — Tati Tati member. Cultural flows workshop in Robinvale, April 2021

A photo of a lagoon filled with water and trees in the background.

Margooya Lagoon when full. Credit: Environmental Justice Australia.

This three year project aims to implement actions from the Taungurung Country Plan Water Chapter – Baan Dhumba-Dji-Ngan Mundak Gunga (We Must Speak to Protect Water) to be water managers and knowledge holders on their Country. This will be achieved through undertaking Aboriginal
Waterway Assessments, conducting engagement activities, establishing a water quality monitoring program as well as undertaking cultural flows and cultural landscapes research. These activities will enable better participation of Taungurung in the way water is planned, managed, governed and
delivered, incorporating a cultural landscape approach.

This three year project will undertake Aboriginal Waterway Assessments in Little River, Stony Creek and Moorabool River. This will enable Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation to have a better understanding of how much water is required in each identified system and provide for cultural watering outcomes. The project has co-investment with DELWPs Urban Waterways Team to align with broader aspirations.

The Water, Country and Community Program provides several opportunities to the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation. The funding offers the opportunity to research and document water rights, aspirations, and interests for the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung community and where appropriate integrate any information gathered into a Narrap (Country) Plan.

The projects proposed will continue to build upon previous work undertaken for the Yarra Strategic Plan, while also offering the opportunity to obtain technical advice to document water quality, flow and volume requirements for protecting cultural and environmental water. The Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Water Unit will use the opportunity to increase their capacity through additional positions, as well as supporting further professional development. These activities are designed to advance the existing water knowledge and capacity of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung community. The project has co-investment with the Urban Waterways Team to align with broader aspirations.

This three year project will assist Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation (YYNAC) to advocate for change and restore balance within their waterways. Actions outlined in YYNAC's 'Whole of Country Plan' and 'Water Plan' will be implemented through Elder-led research, monitoring and evaluating sites of cultural significance, as well as environmental watering delivery. The project aims to take a lead role in delivering Yorta Yorta cultural values where water policy development can occur and watering events can be implemented in line with caring for Country.

State-wide network of Aboriginal Water Officers

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 deliver projects in partnership with Traditional Owner Corporations, Aboriginal communities, catchment management authorities, and water corporations. The positions provide a dedicated water expert on Country who supports Traditional Owners to self-determine how they partner with the water sector. AWOs work on local projects and programs, and support the Victorian Government to better understand and incorporate Traditional Ecological Knowledge into water resource planning.

The Aboriginal Water Program, in partnership with AWOs, established the Aboriginal Water Officer Network as a forum to share knowledge and practices. It is administered by AWOs to provide support for each other and strengthen capability to participate in the water industry.

An image showing locations of Aboriginal Water Officers around Victoria

As of December 2021, organisations with funded Aboriginal Water Officers include:

  1. Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation
  2. Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation
  3. DJAARA (Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation)
  4. Eastern Marr Aboriginal Corporation
  5. First Peoples of Millewa Mallee Aboriginal Corporation
  6. Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation
  7. Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation
  8. Mallee Catchment Management Authority
  9. Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations
  10. North Central Catchment Management Authority
  11. North East Catchment Management Authority
  12. Tati Tati Kaiejin
  13. Taungurung Land and Waters Council
  14. Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation
  15. Wimmera Catchment Management Authority
  16. Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation
  17. Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation

Page last updated: 30/09/22