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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.

Phase 1

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.

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.

Funded Self-determined Water Projects

You can read about some of the Aboriginal Water Program projects and outcomes below.

This 3 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
  • 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 3 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 culturally significant sites, which will complement 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 3 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 3 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 8 million native fish.

This 3 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 2 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
  • 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 3 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.

This 3 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."

Phase 2

Phase 2 of the Aboriginal Water Program, the Water, Country and Community Program, continues our commitment to Traditional Owner water-related priorities. Building on learnings from Phase 1, the Water, Country and Community Program is designed to include Aboriginal people in water management better and to reconnect communities to water for cultural, economic, customary and spiritual purposes.

$18 million has been invested to fund Aboriginal Water Officers, the Aboriginal Water Officer Network, and other self-determined projects, research and resources. The Water, Country and Community Program is being delivered through 2 stages over a four-year period.

State-wide network of Aboriginal Water Officers

Learn how the Aboriginal Water Program funds traditional owners to take an active role in managing Victoria's water resources.

Find out more about the Aboriginal Water Office Network.

Page last updated: 08/09/23