The Aboriginal Water Unit delivers Water for Victoria chapter 6 and is a dedicated program and funding source 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 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

The Aboriginal Water Program Phase One, now entitled the Water, Country, and Community Program, began in 2016. Phase One aimed 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 is a continuation of the Victorian Government’s commitment and has been developed through the Phase One learnings.

The Water, Country and Community Program is funded through the Victorian Government’s investment of $18 million for Traditional Owner water-related priorities. 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.

EC5 Expenditure to date

Program Title (EC5)

2020–21 Expenditure $'000

2021–22 Expenditure $'000

Improving recognition and management of water by Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians


Summary of progress to date

Managed the continuation of 13 Traditional Owner-led self-determined water projects. Project durations are between 1 and 3 years and each project has various outputs and outcomes as self-determined by the project owners. All incorporate 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; and
  • capacity building.


  • Initiated 5 Traditional Owner-led self-determined water projects 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.
  • Continued funding 17 existing Aboriginal Water Officers and a state-wide Aboriginal Water Officer Network. Formalised 6 new Aboriginal Water Officer roles under Stage 2 funding for 2022-2024.
  • Coordinated with Traditional Owners, the Water and Catchments Group, the broader department and the water sector to identify barriers and opportunities to increase self-determination and facilitate pathways for progressing Traditional Owner access to water, including:
    • 1.36 gigalitres set aside for Traditional Owners in northern Victoria as part of the Connections project.
  • Worked with Traditional Owners to develop a water strategy Water is Life: Traditional Owner Access to Water Roadmap (WiL). The WiL draft for consultation has been released. It proposes a series of actions the government will take in partnership with the water sector, existing water users and Traditional Owners to increase Traditional Owner access to water and participation in the management of water landscapes.

Page last updated: 09/10/22