|2020–21 expenditure ($'000)
|2022–-23 expenditure ($'000)
Improving recognition and management of water by Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians
|Water Access and Ownership for Traditional Owners
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The Aboriginal Water Unit is a dedicated program providing funding for Traditional Owner water-related priorities, projects, research and resources to support connection and access to water for social, economic, customary, spiritual and other self-determined purposes.
The Aboriginal Water Unit and the broader water sector are contributing towards achieving the following Water for Victoria actions:
- Action 6.1: recognise Aboriginal values and objectives of water
- Action 6.2: include Aboriginal values and traditional ecological knowledge in water planning
- Action 6.3: support Aboriginal access to water for economic development
- Action 6.4: build capacity to increase Aboriginal participation in water management
- Action 10.8: increase Aboriginal inclusion in the water sector
- Action 10.9: support economic development through Aboriginal participation.
Water, Country and Community Program
The Aboriginal Water Program began in 2016, aiming to better include Aboriginal people in the way that water is managed in Victoria and to reconnect communities to water for cultural, economic, customary, and spiritual purposes.
The Water, Country and Community Program (2020–24), is a continuation of the Aboriginal Water Program building and learning from the initial program and projects. The Water, Country and Community Program is funded through the Victorian Government’s investment of $18 million for Traditional Owner water-related priorities.
Delivering a flexible and simplified funding process
Funding is available for Aboriginal Water Officers, the Aboriginal Water Officer Network, and projects, research, and resources to start and/or continue to better understand, document and progress Aboriginal access and management requirements to water for self-determined purposes.
Between 2020-24 the Water, Country, and Community Program aims to deliver a flexible and simplified funding process to support as many Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians as possible to gain more opportunities in the water sector, providing support for Traditional Owner-led self-determined water projects and for Aboriginal Water Officer positions.
Environmental contribution 5 (EC5)
Traditional Owner-led self-determined water projects
Each of the 13 Traditional Owner-led self-determined water projects that were continued from the initial Aboriginal Water incorporates elements of the following themes:
- access to water for economic development
- community consultation and gatherings
- country plan implementation
- long-term water planning
- monitoring, mapping, and evaluating Country
- capacity building.
An additional 7 Traditional Owner-led self-determined water projects were initiated under the Stage 2 Water, Country and Community Program open grant round. The open grant round aimed to support Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians not already engaged with the program.
Aboriginal Water Officers and Aboriginal Water Officer Network
Funding for 24 Aboriginal Water Officer positions and continued facilitation of a state-wide Aboriginal Water Officer Network.
Water is Life: Traditional Owner Access to Water Roadmap
Released in September 2022, Water is Life: Traditional Owner Access to Water Roadmap is a nation-leading policy that establishes pathways to increase Traditional Owner roles, responsibilities and resourcing in water management in Victoria and forms a key pillar of the department’s Aboriginal Water Program and its commitment to enabling self-determination. The policy builds on findings from work conducted within the program (Cultural Water for Cultural Economies and Traditional owner-led Pilot Projects) and prioritises collaboration and partnership with Traditional Owners to further enable self-determination.
Development of Water is Life (2021–22) included a total of 61 Traditional Owner Nation-level, regional and statewide workshops with Traditional Owners, as well as the publication of 27 Traditional Owner Nation Statements alongside the government’s policy commitments in Water is Life.
Water is Life commits to increasing Traditional Owner participation in water policy, management and decision-making. Five environmental-watering trials are underway as pilot projects, with Traditional Owners working with the Victorian Environmental Water Holder and the Department to develop Seasonal Watering Proposals. These will inform the development of fit-for-purpose guidelines and a framework for multi-year agreements between the Victorian Environmental Water Holder and Traditional Owners.
Water is Life has opportunities for Victorian Traditional Owners and First Peoples to access, manage and own water for spiritual, cultural, environmental, social, and economic purposes. The return of water to Traditional Owners to date includes:
- 2,000 megalitres of water to the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation in the Mitchell River
- 2,500 megalitres of water to the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation in the Palawarra/Fitzroy River system and
- 1,360 megalitres set aside for Traditional Owners in northern Victoria as part of the Connections project.
Page last updated: 15/11/23