The Aboriginal communities of Australia have a unique and enduring connection to country that spans many thousands of years. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Aboriginal communities implemented a range of sophisticated land and water management practices, however, in Victoria, their ability to influence decision making over the recent past has been very limited.
Recently there has been a strong commitment from government not only to meet the objectives outlined in the Closing the Gap Agreement but to progress self-determination and Treaty, including by recognising Traditional Owner values and traditional ecological knowledge in water planning, supporting Traditional Owner access to water for economic development and building capacity to increase Traditional Owner participation in water management.
In light of these moves towards self-determination and Treaty, Traditional Owner representatives are participating in the development of the new Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy (SWS) led by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). The sustainable water strategies are a statutory process for water resource planning over a 10-year period that are used to manage the threats to supply and water quality for environmental, economic, cultural and recreational values.
To support this process, a partnership of four Traditional Owner groups (Gurnaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC), Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, Wadawarrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and Wurundjeri Woi-wurring Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation), engaged Alluvium to develop a framework to measure the benefits of Traditional Owner water ownership and management.
Together with these groups, Alluvium are working to provide the evidence base to demonstrate the following benefits associated with the ownership and management of water by Traditional Owners:
- The health, wellbeing and economic benefits for Traditional Owners.
- Benefits (including water security) to other water users as a result of Traditional Owner ownership and management.
- The flow-on implications for quadruple bottom line outcomes for the Central and Gippsland Region.
- Contributions to meeting Government priorities and obligations such as the Treaty process, Closing the Gap, the Victorian Self-Determination Reform Agenda and legal obligations.