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An overview of Indigenous Rights in Water Resource Management 2008

Author:  NAILSMA Lingiari Foundation
Publication Type: 
Publication Date: 

Indigenous organisations and land owners are being asked more and more by non-Indigenous groups and other government and non-government stakeholders to say what Indigenous rights, responsibilities and interests in water are. Important changes are happening in the way that water is managed and governed, and Indigenous people need to have a say in how they happen. The discussions presented in this booklet have been written to help Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders to think about and discuss their rights, responsibilities and interests in onshore and offshore waters.

The Overview of Indigenous Rights in Water Resource Management booklet is broken into three sections:

  1. A general overview of information important to understanding Indigenous rights and interests in water.
  2. Onshore waters - water on and under the land.
  3. Offshore waters - saltwater and the inter-tidal and coastal zones.

We know that for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples this is an artificial distinction and there is no separation between land, rivers and sea.

The rights, interests, practices and uses that Indigenous peoples say they have in water need to be talked about and understood in a meaningful way. This is vitally important so that the best ways to advocate, recognise, and protect these rights and interests can also be understood.

We acknowledge the work already conducted by the Lingiari Foundation (Inc.), in partnership with the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), on the 2002 Onshore and Offshore water rights discussion booklets. The discussions presented here summarise those booklets, and also update that work and renew the debate on water reform and how this translates into Indigenous rights and interests.

We look forward to hearing from you about your ideas on standards, principles and protocols for these important matters, so that your rights in waters might be better recognised.

You can provide your input by going to the NAILSMA web site and visiting the Water Resource Management Program pages. Contacts of the people working on water can be found on this site. Or, go to the Kimberley Instituate (previously the Lingiari Foundation) website.