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Indigenous Water Policy Group (IWPG)


The Indigenous Water Policy Group (IWPG) was initiated in 2006 to continue the important work started by the Lingiari Foundation on Water Rights which identified that Indigenous rights, responsibilities and interests in water need to be recognised in all water reform management and planning processes. 


The IWPG is made up of Indigenous independents expert in water resource management and representatives from major regional Indigenous organisations in the north that represent a large number of Indigenous communities. Members include: 

  • Joe Ross (Chair)
  • Richie Ah Mat ( Deputy Chair)
  • Edna O'Malley (Miriuwung Gajerrong Corporation)
  • Chirs Griffith (Waringarri Arts Centre & MG Corp.)
  • Kim Hill (CEO - NLC)
  • Robert Dalton (Policy Advisor - First Peoples Water Engagement Council (FPWEC)
  • Mona Liddy (Wagiman Association)
  • Anne Poelina (Madjulla Inc.)
  • John Christophersen (NT Consultant)
  • Murrandoo Yanner (Representative - CLCAC)
  • Thomas Wilson (Chairman - CLCAC)
  • Richard Jenkins (Balkanu - CYDC)
  • Robbie Salee (Deputy Chair – CYLC)
  • Toby Accoom (Representative, Lockhardt River - CYLC)
  • Ron Archer (northern Gulf Indigenous Savannah Group)
  • Peter Yu (Independent Chair NAILSMA)

Guiding Principles

"Water and land cannot be separated. We look and care for country together, not separate...." Mary River Statement 2009.

  1. Land, water and people are inextricably connected, which means unity of land, water and Indigenous people.

  2. Water management and use includes all of cultural uses, environmental flows, consumptive and commercial uses; and all freshwater systems  whether on the mainland or on sea country, on the surface or underground.

  3. Adhering to a balanced revised ‘Triple Bottom Line’ (social and cultural, ecological and economic) to include the fourth element, political sustainability.

  4. Water dealings are based on the free, prior, and informed consent, decisions and engagement of Indigenous communities. This means representative bodies, Indigenous communities and Traditional Owners on the ground be fully informed and participate in all associated processes.

  5. Principles of International Law (e.g. UNDRIP, Ramsar) are implemented and guide the engagement of Indigenous water resource management in water reform processes.

  6. Water allocation be linked with best practice, sustainable, efficient use and accurate and current information about environmental flows and conditions.

  7. Indigenous people across north Australia are united in dealing with water issues and accordingly recognise that:

  • Indigenous peoples have cultural and kinship responsibilities and obligations under customary law to look after water;

  • Traditional Owners have a right to be involved in the management and decision making over water use;

  • Indigenous people need to be the primary interface in the planning and proposed development and regulation of water use; and,

  • Water is part of native title through cultural and ceremonial practices that are part of the birds, animals, plants and people.

The IWPG adopted these principles from the Mary River Statement in October 2009. The IWPG launched its Indigenous Water Policy Statement in March 2010.

Indigenous people in north Australia remain on the margins of government plans for national water reform. There is much work to do to close this gap.

Want to know more?

Go to these pages:

Indigenous Community Water Facilitator Network

Research initiatives

Water Program Publications and Links

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