Aboriginal Water Program

The Aboriginal Water Program (AWP) is responsible for implementing and delivering six key actions identified in Water for Victoria, Chapter 6. These actions focus on recognising Aboriginal values and aspirations for water and progressing self-determination.

A focus of the AWP is to support ongoing collaboration and two-way learning in water planning and management by supporting and strengthening relationships between DELWP, water corporations, catchment management authorities and Traditional Owners.

The AWP is funded through the third and fourth tranche of the environmental contribution levy.

EC4 Expenditure to date

Water for Aboriginal Culture $247,000 $1,938,000 $500,000 $2,276,000

EC3 Expenditure to date

Water for Aboriginal Culture - $1,000,000 $2,000,000 $2,000,000


The AWP invests in projects, activities and resources across Victoria, to enable better inclusion of Aboriginal people in the way water is managed.

The AWP has progressed actions, set out in Water for Victoria, Chapter Six, by providing funding under two key initiatives:

  • Recognising Aboriginal values and uses to water and;
  • Aboriginal access to water for economic development

Recognising Aboriginal values and uses to water initiative

The initiative managed the roll-out of local projects to assist communities to better understand their values, uses and aspirations to water. These local projects explored cultural mapping, seasonal watering plans, water management plans, capacity building events and gatherings and cultural and environmental flow for the sustainable management of water.

The initiative also provided funding for Aboriginal Water Officers (AWO) and established the Aboriginal Water Officer Network (AWON). AWOs work in partnership with Traditional Owner groups, Aboriginal communities, catchment management authorities and water corporations to build strong and collaborative partnerships to contribute to environmental, economic and social benefits for local communities.

Some of the many achievements under the first four years of the initiative, funded under the Environmental Contribution include:

  • Funding over twenty-three full time AWO positions since 2017, with some of these AWOs are now in their third year of employment. The AWO positions have become business-as-usual for many Traditional Owners across Victoria, as they play a vital role in increasing Aboriginal involvement in water management. The number of funded positions exceeds the Water for Victoria target of six positions significantly.
  • A grants program for Traditional Owner groups and water agencies was has initiated.The grants program funded on-ground projects to support Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians to better recognise their values, uses and aspirations for water.
  • Seven AWO network meetings have been facilitated by the Aboriginal Water Unit (AWU). Four were hosted on Country, by Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, Barapa Barapa Wamba Wemba, Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation and Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation. The remaining three were held online, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
  • The Aboriginal Water Program received the 2019 Australian Water Association Highly Commended Award for Innovation in Waterway Management.
  • Eight standalone Aboriginal Waterway Assessments funded to be facilitated by Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) with Traditional Owners.

Five Traditional Owner groups and three catchment management authorities received funding from the Aboriginal Water Grants Program. Listed below are the funded projects:

  • Barengi Gadjin Land Council (BGLC) Come along and we will re-water the Ranch Billabong
  • Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation – Bunurong Barnth
  • Corangamite CMA (CCMA) – Corangamite AWO
  • Djandak (Dja Dja Wurrung) – Kapa Gatjin (To Know Water)
  • Glenelg Hopkins CMA (GHCMA) – Glenelg River Cultural Flows
  • North Central Catchment Management Authority – Barapa Barapa, Waemba Wemba Water for country
  • Gunaik Kurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) – GLaWAC Water Cultural Mapping
  • Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation – Restoring Water, Restoring Country

Aboriginal access to water for economic development

The Aboriginal access to water for economic development initiative was co-designed between Traditional Owners, the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations (FVTOC), and the AWU.

The initiative is being delivered in three stages:

  1. Accessing Water project led by MLDRIN and the University of Melbourne. This project included a series of workshops which assisted Traditional Owners to explore questions around water rights, water markets and trading. Traditional Owners and representatives from CMAs, Victorian water corporations and DELWP attended these workshops, across the State.
  2. AWU provided funding for Traditional Owner-led pilot projects. These projects explore opportunities for Traditional Owners to access water for economic development and to inform planning for future investment. The projects tested the feasibility of aquaculture, bush foods, native plants, water-based education and cultural tourism, across Victoria.
  3. The third stage will be informed by the findings and results from the first two stages. The 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.

The Economic Development initiative has funded fourteen projects. Three projects have been delivered, and three projects have been partly delivered, with the remaining funds from these three projects redirected towards other key aspirations. The remaining eight projects are on track for delivery over the next twelve months. Nine feasibility studies have been submitted and five business cases and/or final reports have been completed. Projects funded under this initiative include:

  • Barengi Gadjin Land Council – Aboriginal framing
  • Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation – Aquaponics project
  • Djandak (Dja Dja Wurrung)
  • Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation
  • First Peoples of Millewa Mallee Aboriginal Corporation(FPMMAC) – Native fish hatchery
  • Federation of Victorian Traditional Owners Corporation (FVTOC) – Aboriginal Access to Water Roadmap
  • GLaWAC
  • Gunditj Mirring Aboriginal Corporation – Killara Kooyang Project
  • Tati Tati Wadi Wadi Nations hosted by MLDRIN
  • Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation – Horticulture business
  • North Central Catchment Management Authority in partnership with Barapa Barapa Wamba Wemba Nations
  • Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation

For more information on the progress since the implementation of the Aboriginal Water Program, read the Aboriginal Water Program’s Progress Snapshot Report: Water, Community and Country (PDF, 1.5 MB).

Click for more information on the Aboriginal Water Program.

Page last updated: 27/11/20