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Roles and Objectives - Indigenous Water Policy Group

The IWPG aims to deliver objectives through a community driven policy and research approach. The key responsibilities of the IWPG are listed below.

  • Provide policy advice to its members based on research about water reform initiatives as they affect Indigenous communities and their land holdings;
  • Provide advice to the NAILSMA Board of Directors;
  • Provide advice and representation on all matters concerning water resources in terms of the social and cultural, economic, ecological and political interests of Indigenous people in the north of Australia;
  • Work in parallel with the NAILSMA Indigenous Community Water Facilitator Network;
  • Develop research partnerships and commission research that addresses community identified and directed needs and interests; 
  • Ensure that Indigenous interests are appropriately engaged in all regional water planning in the north of Australia, providing:
    • equitable and secure access to water for domestic and commercial purposes,
    • recognition and protection of the wide range of interests in water by developing collaborative relationships among a wide rage of stakeholders;
  • Communicate community aspirations to government and non-government organisations including Indigenous organisations and institutions, water resource managers, research organisations, policy advisors and other stakeholders and audiences;
  • Implement the Mary River (Oct 09) principles in water reform processes by advocating for:
  • The assertion of legal recognition of Indigenous peoples’ traditional ownership of waters through amendments to legislation,
  • cultural rights be recognised as a water allocation in legislation and policy for the protection of Indigenous cultural assets by preventing overexploitation of water from the consumptive pool,
  • the protection of and access to equitable Indigenous commercial water rights from the consumptive pool for economic purposes be provided in legislation and policy,
  • Traditional Owners and native title groups be jointly engaged with state and territory water agencies in the planning, ongoing implementation and review of water resources management,
  • culturally appropriate and best practice water planning and management in local, regional and national water reform processes,
  • Traditional Owner interests and values be represented in forums and research,
  • long term sustainable use of water resources that supports the economic development of Indigenous livelihoods, and
  • legislative change in other areas of interest relating to land and water resource development and management be inclusive of Indigenous rights and aspirations.


The IWPG has four main objectives:

  1. Improve Indigenous people’s awareness of government water reforms, including the National Water Initiative, enunciated or implied by policies and frameworks of governments so that:
  • informed decisions are made about water planning and management as they affect communities in the north of Australia;
  • impacts from modern day exploitation of water resources as they occur across north Australia are considered.
  1. Engage in research relating to Indigenous rights, responsibilities and interests in water resources in northern Australia so that:
  • Indigenous customary and traditional water use and knowledge are identified and incorporated into water planning processes;
  • Indigenous knowledge, customary practices and intellectual property in water are recognised, valued and protected;
  • Indigenous people are engaged in consumptive and non-consumptive water planning and policy development; and,
  • the economic future of Indigenous people is secured in the development of water reforms (in both the present and the emerging industries).
  1. Work with governments toward policy implementation so that Indigenous rights, responsibilities and interests in water resources and management:
  • are recognised and incorporated into state and territory regional and local water plans; and
  • are recognised and incorporated into broader COAG policies.
  1. Ensure policy approach is consistent across the wet and dry tropics of northern Australia.

Want to know more?

Go to  the Water Program Publications and Links