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Oolloo Indigenous Water Forum NT 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011 - 09:00 to Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 09:00
Event Type: 
Some participants at the Oolloo Indigenous Water Planning Forum - 17 - 18 October 2011

Some participants at the Oolloo Indigenous Water Planning Forum - 17 - 18 October 2011

The aim of the Forum was to give Traditional Owners within the Oolloo Water Allocation Plan area an opportunity to hear back about Indigenous-led research on the Strategic Indigenous Reserve and to discuss with government their interests in and issues with water management in their region.

The forum was hosted by NAILSMA and its member organisation, the Northern Land Council, at the Douglas-Daly Tourist Park, NT,  and held on 17 and 18 October, 2011.


Prior to the forum, NAILSMA and the Northern Land Council conducted a consultative workshop with a subcommittee of the Daly River Aboriginal Reference Group from the Oolloo water plan area. The workshop was commissioned by NAILSMA’s Indigenous Water Policy Group (IWPG) to address one of its key tasks that is to define and qualify commercial and non-commercial Indigenous access to water in some water plans in WA, NT and Qld..

In November 2009, NAILSMA called for Indigenous guaranteed entitlements to water in tropical north Australia from the consumptive pool for commercial purposes. In March 2010, at the launch of the NAILSMA Water Policy Statement, Northern Territory Indigenous Development Minister, Malandirri McCarthy announced NT government support for Indigenous commercial rights to freshwater as provided in a Strategic Indigenous Reserve.

A Strategic Indigenous Reserve (SIR) is an amount of water set aside in a water allocation plan for Indigenous people within the plan area to use and support future water use and economic development.

Forum Outcomes

Traditional Owners from Wagiman, Dagoman, Wardaman and Larbagunyan language groups participated in the Oolloo Indigenous Water Forum.  

Jabul Huddleston and Teresa Bandison conducted a traditional Wagiman water blessing ceremony by the banks of the Douglas River and welcomed visitors to Wagiman Country. (see photo right.)

The Oolloo Subcommittee of the Daly River Aboriginal Reference Group informed the Forum of their recent engagement with NAILSMA, Northern Land Council, the Daly River Management Advisory Committee and NT Government water planners about the Oolloo Water Allocation Plan, particularly the Strategic Indigenous Reserve.

Joe Ross, Chair of the IWPG, stressed the importance of governments including Indigenous people in water reform and for Indigenous people to assert their rights to water.

Mr Ross said “It is important to take time and work through these issues together. We need to think about what governments are planning for water so we are better engaged and are part of making decisions".

The Mataranka Traditional Owner Water Allocation Reference Group (MTOWARG) shared their experiences regarding water planning in the Mataranka Water Allocation Plan area.  Alan Maroney, Chair of MTOWARG, spoke on how Mataranka Traditional Owners were initially excluded from the water planning process until recently.  He said that MTOWARG were looking to the Daly River Aboriginal Reference Group to learn from their experiences. (Go to the Mataranka Indigenous Water Forum for more info.

John Christophersen from the NAILSMA Indigenous Water Policy Group reported back findings from NAILSMA research on the potential for a Strategic Indigenous Reserve to be created in water plans in the NT.

Gareth Lewis from the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) presented information about the tools available to Traditional Owners to protect their sacred sites and suggested that the water planning process should be subject to the Sacred Sites Act. It should be mandatory for applicants for water licences to obtain an Authority Certificate from AAPA before the licence is granted.

The NT Government Water Resources Branch and Daly River Management Advisory Committee explained their role in water planning.  The NT Government Water Resources Branch then presented key elements of the Draft Oolloo Water Allocation Plan for question and comment and had the opportunity to listen to the interests and concerns of Traditional Owners in relation to management of water in the Oolloo area.

To close the meeting, participants gathered at the Oolloo Crossing for the TRaCK Daly River Fish and Flows Project Launch of the Wagiman Fish Poster.

The Fish and Flows project showcases successful research collaboration between scientific and Indigenous knowledge systems.  

Next Steps

  1. NAILSMA and NLC will progress a submission to the government Draft Oolloo Water Allocation Plan following its release by the Minister.
  2. NAILSMA and NLC will include in the submission provisions for a proposed Strategic Indigenous Reserve.
  3. NAILSMA and NLC will draft a submission to the government review of the NT Water Act.
  4. Convene another meeting to review draft submissions to government and progress plans to go forward.

'As a Dagoman Traditional Owner, I believe it is highly relevant to be engaged in what government is formulating in relation to water reform processes. Forums such as these are important for Indigenous people to come together and have a say about how these types of government processes are impacting them on their country', said Mr. Morrison, CEO of NAILSMA.

For more informatin download related media for this event below: