Aboriginal cultural practices connected with floodplain harvesting
The return of water to floodplains through licensing of floodplain harvesting is expected to have several benefits for Aboriginal communities across the northern basin, including the continuation of Aboriginal cultural practices connected with flooding within the floodplain. To help realise potential benefits, the Department of Planning and Environment seeks to understand the considerations and perspectives of Aboriginal peoples from across the northern basin.
A cultural value is defined as sites, objects, landscapes, resources and beliefs that are important to Aboriginal people as part of their continuing culture.
Floodplain management plans and consultation
Consultations with Aboriginal communities and organisations have been held in the Macquarie, Barwon-Darling and Namoi valleys. This has included over 52 workshops and 250 interviews with Traditional Owners across the Basin.
We are continuing to engage with Aboriginal peoples in the northern Basin as floodplain harvesting reform expands to the Macquarie, Barwon-Darling and Namoi valleys.
The feedback received will be included in an updated Cultural Considerations report covering all five valleys. The final report is expected to be published at the end of 2023.
In 2020, the department and Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN) co-designed a culturally sensitive approach to engagement on the benefits and impacts of floodplain harvesting reform from an Aboriginal viewpoint.
Between October 2020 and May 2021, NBAN led a series of First Nations consultation workshops in the Border Rivers and Gwydir valleys. Feedback from these sessions has been summarised in the Cultural Considerations of Floodplain Harvesting for the Gwydir Valley and Border Rivers report (PDF, 525 KB).
Between April 2014 and August 2018, the department consulted with First Nations and Aboriginal peoples on a valley-by-valley basis to inform development of the floodplain management plans for the Border Rivers, Gwydir, Macquarie, Barwon-Darling and Namoi valleys.
In each valley, face-to-face meetings were held with local Aboriginal people and organisations to identify flood-dependent Aboriginal cultural assets, values and uses.
This consultation was used to:
- explain why the department was preparing new plans and how they relate to Aboriginal cultural assets, values and uses
- inform development of floodplain management plans under the Water Management Act 2000
- seek feedback on the overall concepts of the draft plans, including how Aboriginal cultural assets, values and uses would be considered in management zones, rules and assessment criteria
- collect information about Aboriginal cultural assets, values and uses to inform the mapping of the draft management zones and the rules for flood works in each of these zones.
Our commitment to engage with First Nations people about floodplain planning and management
The Department of Planning and Environment acknowledges that we need to continue improving how we engage with First Nations people, communities, and organisations. Some of our key learnings based on feedback are:
- First Nations people should be involved early in planning and decision-making to build a shared understanding and incorporate Indigenous cultural knowledge.
- consultation should be culturally appropriate and be held on Country where possible.
- consultation should engage local knowledge holders, as well as peak bodies and representative groups.
- acknowledgement and protection of Aboriginal cultural assets, values and uses should be continually improved in floodplain management plans.
The department is committed to bringing these learnings into floodplain planning and management in NSW.
To find out more about the department’s commitment to improving Indigenous engagement please see our Priority 2 (NSW Water Strategy) page.
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