The Aboriginal Water Coalition has advised that face-to-face engagement is preferable and in light of COVID-19, some engagement events were paused and rescheduled in line with health advise.
We continue to work with Aboriginal communities to plan engagement across all the regions to ensure a balance between COVID-19 restrictions and the preference for face-to-face engagement.
The COVID-19 engagement approach is continually reviewed in line with the Australian Government requirements.
One of the objectives of the regional water strategies is to recognise and protect Aboriginal water rights, interests and access to water, including Aboriginal heritage assets.
We have been working with an Aboriginal Water Coalition (the coalition) to provide advice during the development of the strategies. The coalition has representatives from peak Aboriginal organisations including the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC), Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN) and Murray Lower Darling River Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN).
Our approach is to inform and involve Aboriginal communities during the development of the strategies including the development of draft options. We are committed to respectfully and proactively engage with communities, organisations and individuals.
In collaboration with the coalition, workshops with interested Aboriginal people are being held to discuss:
- Water management
- The regional water strategy process
- Opportunities and challenges for the region
- Regional profiles
- Draft strategy options, and
- Outcomes of the public exhibition process and strategy accreditation processes.
Workshops are facilitated by independent Aboriginal facilitators and focused on sharing information, building relationships and involving Aboriginal people in the development of regional water strategy options. Subject to COVID-19 requirements and advice from the coalition, workshops are being held in several local communities across each water strategy region and are accompanied by presentations including maps and information sheets. These workshops inform ‘What We Heard’ Reports in each region.
The following fact sheets provide information on water management in NSW, with a focus on cultural values and rights relating to water.
Six Pillar Model
We are also building on our prior work with Aboriginal communities; a six pillar model was developed that describes key water objectives and outcomes for Aboriginal people. These pillars have been a starting point for discussion with Aboriginal communities about the regional water strategies.
Acknowledge the central role of water in Aboriginal culture, and the 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.
Improve and enable access to Country to maintain healthy waterways.
Embed culturally appropriate Aboriginal engagement, participation, partnerships and communication processes into water management and government decision making.
Seek opportunities to use existing water and access to additional water to generate employment and business ventures.
Seek opportunities to use water allocated for environmental and consumptive purposes to deliver Aboriginal outcomes and benefits where synergies exist.