A NSW Government website

Aboriginal Water Program

NSW Aboriginal Water Strategy

The Aboriginal Water Strategy developed with Aboriginal communities will ensure continued access to water resources for Aboriginal people.

Bellinger River, Mid North Coast in NSW. Image courtesy of Nathan Peckham.

About the strategy

Together with First Nations/Aboriginal people, the NSW Government is co-designing a state-wide Aboriginal water strategy. The strategy will identify a program of measures to increase First Nations/Aboriginal people’s water rights and ensure their interests are represented in water management and planning decisions.

Developing the strategy requires a genuine partnership between the department and NSW Aboriginal stakeholders and communities.

We are committed to:

  • reviewing and identifying the required amendments to the water management legislative framework to enable Aboriginal rights, interests and ownership of water
  • revising existing and developing new water policy and planning approaches
  • designing programs that deliver outcomes for First Nations/Aboriginal communities
  • securing sustainable funding and resourcing to build the organisational capacity of First Nations/Aboriginal people to enable self-determination and sustained participation in projects relevant to water interests.

The strategy is part of the wider commitment of the NSW Water Strategy and will work to ensure improved access to water for our communities for food, kinship, connection, recreation, stories, song lines and healing.

Strategy principles
'The yarns we’ve had'

To start our co-design commitment, we are basing the strategy on six principles that were developed in consultation with Aboriginal communities, Traditional Owners and your representative organisations, including NSW Aboriginal peak bodies. This took place from 2018-2023 in over 75 workshops during our engagement on water resource planning and Regional Water Strategies.

The endorsed and adopted six principles are:

  • culture - acknowledge the central role of water in Aboriginal culture, and its inter-dependencies with economic, social and environmental outcomes.
  • health and well-being - acknowledge that water (quality and quantity) is critical to sustaining healthy communities, which underpins the ability to live on and care for Country.
  • caring for Country - improve and enable access to Country to maintain healthy waterways.
  • meaningful engagement - embed culturally appropriate Aboriginal engagement, participation, partnerships and communication processes into water management and government decision-making.
  • economic benefit - seek opportunities to use existing water and access to additional water to generate employment and business ventures.
  • shared cultural and environmental benefits - seek opportunities to use water allocated for environmental and consumptive purposes to deliver Aboriginal outcomes and benefits where synergies exist.

Next steps
‘We will be yarning’

Throughout past consultations, we’ve heard that there’s been ‘enough talking’ and that community want to see a draft to ensure we have met their expectations in improving water rights for cultural and economic purposes. With this in mind, the draft strategy will build on the information the community has already provided.

The co-design phase of the draft strategy will begin in late 2023 with NSW Aboriginal peak bodies and Aboriginal controlled organisations with water interests. Following this, we will seek feedback on the co-designed strategy through Aboriginal community exhibition.

All Aboriginal people and peak bodies will be encouraged to provide feedback and our Regional Aboriginal Engagement team will inform local communities.

Contact us

For further enquiries, please contact the Aboriginal Water Programs Team:

Email: awp.engagementteam@dpie.nsw.gov.au
Call: 1300 081 047