Please note: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that this website may contain images and voices of people who have died.

Northern Australian Water Futures Assessment (NAWFA)

NAILSMA participated (2011-12) in the Northern Australian Water Futures Assessment (NAWFA) Cultural and Social Program to conduct five connected sub-projects were delivered that have have developed knowledge and understanding on Indigenous social, cultural and economic aspirations with respect to land and water management and development in the north of Australia.

The NAWFA projects have built on the firm progress, accomplishment and lessons learned from the overall NAILSMA Water Resource Management Program; including the Indigenous Water Policy Group (IWPG), the Indigenous Community Water facilitator Network (ICWFN), the TRaCK Theme 6 (Sustainable Enterprises) Projects and the various water forums and events facilitated by NAILSMA. These forums have provided a platform for Indigenous people to participate in government land and water resource reform agendas, and to ensure Indigenous aspirations, issues and interests are articulated, encouraged and incorporated into any land and water management policy decisions, planning and water allocation processes in north Australia.

The NAWFA projects have principally focused on reflection, consultation and evaluation of the current status of Indigenous livelihoods in relation to northern development and to provide key recommendations for its progression.  Although each project was focused around water, the NAWFA Cultural and Social Program aimed to develop knowledge and understanding of Indigenous social, cultural and economic aspirations with respect to land and water management and development in the north of Australia. This fundamental incorporation of land aligns with the Indigenous concept that water, land and people cannot be separated, which consequently formed the basis of each project's parameters to the researching of Indigenous livelihoods in relation to northern development.

NAILSMA projects:

NAILSMA delivered five projects under the NAWFA Cultural and Social Program under the guidance and advice of the NAILSMA IWPG.

The outcomes of this research informs the North Australian Indigenous Experts Forum on sustainable economic development - refer to the Discussion Paper presented at the NAIEF First Forum, Mary River, June 2012.

These projects further justify development of sustainable livelihoods for Indigenous people in the north; the outcomes of these projects present a wider spectrum of recommendations that need to be addressed when discussing northern development to ensure Indigenous livelihoods are appropriately considered.

Indigenous Livelihoods

NAILSMA has published Indigenous Livelihoods - Summary and Recommendations of Research Projects to assist in deliberations to secure Indigenous leadership in northern development, research and policy,

This publication compiles executive summaries and key recommendations and findings of the NAILSMA coordinated NAWFA and TRaCK Synthesis and Adoption Year research projects. The publication is a quick reference tool for those involved in Indigenous livelihoods and northern development discussions, progression and implementation, to ensure that Indigenous people are not only included, but are at the helm of livelihoods and northern development in regard to their country.


The Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment (NAWFA) was established by the Australian Government to inform the development and protection of northern Australia’s water resources to facilitate their sustainable ecological, cultural and economic development in the future. The establishment of NAWFA was prompted by the revived attention of northern Australia’s water resources in response to the governments growing urgency for national water reform given water resource issues in southern Australia and acknowledgement of potential claimate change impacts on water avaiability.

Read more about the four NAWFA prorams: 1. Water Resources Program  2. Ecological Program  3. Cultural and Social Program  4. Knowledge Base Program.

Project Support

The National Water Commission (NWC) funds the NAWFA projects until March, 2012.

The NAILSMA coordinated NAWFA projects will work closely with:

Want to know more?

Go to the Water Program Publications and Links page.