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Indigenous Legal Rights to Freshwater: Australia and the International Context, 2008

Author:  NAILSMA ANU M Durette
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This paper, Indigenous Legal Rights to Freshwater Australia in the International Context, was commissioned by the Indigenous Water Policy Group (IWPG) which is an initiative created and facilitated by NAILSMA.

One of the objectives of the IWPG is to engage in research relating to Indigenous rights, responsibilities and interests in water resources and this paper forms part of that research.  The paper undertakes a comparative overview of the legal position of Indigenous people in relation to freshwater rights in four countries: the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.  It is organised around four themes of particular concern to Indigenous people: ownership of water, water rights, commercial rights, and management rights.

The law in each country in relation to these themes is briefly canvassed with the aim of comparing the legal position of Indigenous Australians with their overseas counterparts. This paper reveals that Indigenous people in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand benefit from a comparatively advantageous legal position in relation to their water rights. As such, this research provides a starting point for debate as it offers insight into how Indigenous Australians might realise and protect their legal interests in freshwater.