Skip to main content
Go to search page

Aboriginal partnership programs

As part of our Aboriginal partnerships we work together on cultural heritage projects, training and capacity building programs and environmental works and measures projects.

Water resource planning

The Basin Plan requires states to identify Aboriginal objectives and outcomes based on Aboriginal values and uses. The Part 14 Guideline has been produced in collaboration with MLDRIN, NBAN and Basin State governments to assist Basin State governments to develop WRPs in accordance with Basin Plan water resource plan requirements of Chapter 10, Part 14 – Aboriginal values and uses.

To help ensure the right Traditional Owners are involved for each water resource plan area, we have produced a map identifying Traditional Owner groups for each water resource plan area.

Grandma Cod helps her bubs understand water resource plans

Find out how they came to be, who creates them, who accredits them and how Aboriginal people can be involved. The animation is a collaboration between Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations, Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations, the Basin states and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

Aboriginal waterways assessments

Aboriginal waterways assessments (AWA) (formerly known as Aboriginal Cultural Flows Health Indicator) is a tool for Aboriginal communities to consistently measure the health of rivers and wetlands.  The assessment measures a site’s cultural significance and current use of the place.  For example if it is used for gathering food and other resources.  It also measures cultural stream health such as water quality and the condition of the riverbed.

The AWA has been tested and modified in 3 Basin communities: Deniliquin, Walgett and in the Victorian Alps. Sites along waterways or wetlands were assessed by local Traditional Owners for their spiritual and cultural significance.

It is intended that the outcomes from Aboriginal people using the AWA in partnership with state water agencies will have application in the following areas of Basin Plan implementation:

  • incorporating cultural values in environmental water management through the Basin annual watering priorities and the Basin Watering Strategy
  • assisting state governments in meeting their Water Resource Plan Aboriginal obligations
  • assisting the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office take account of Aboriginal cultural values when evaluating priorities.

2015 Aboriginal Waterways Assessment

Aboriginal sociocultural survey

An Aboriginal sociocultural survey was undertaken in December 2015 to find out about the importance of environmental water to Aboriginal Nations in the north of the basin and to feed this into the decision making around the Northern Basin Review.

The research shows that Aboriginal populations in the north of the basin see a direct relationship between environmental watering and improved Aboriginal well-being. It has quantified the importance of environmental water to this population group for the first time. At a regional scale of landscape, as defined by the three surveyed communities (Brewarrina, St George and Dirranbandi), 202 respondents assessed environmental water to have a 92% importance rating to their sociocultural Assets (‘Capital Assets’) which are recognised as the determinants of viable socioeconomic development.

Use and occupancy mapping

Use-and-occupancy-mapping (UOM) is a type of map that helps Aboriginal people document the many ways in which they currently use the land. UOM is a tool which can inform water planning processes about contemporary Aboriginal land use. Individuals identify significant sites such as death sites, repatriation sites, gathering sites and activities they undertake on Country such as wood gathering and hunting. Maps are produced highlighting individuals’ uses and values. These maps are then combined to indicate how an Aboriginal community ‘uses’ their Country, creating a spatial representation.

The adoption of UOM has occurred over a number of years. It has involved working with a number of Traditional Owners to test the method along the Murray including working on Country with the Yorta Yorta in the Barmah–Millewa Forests and the Ngarrindjeri in the Coorong, Murray Mouth and Lower Lakes. In 2009, we implemented a training program, which enables Aboriginal people to create their own Use and Occupancy maps, gain the benefits of participating in the mapping methodology and create tangible evidence of their relationship with their Country.

Map icons are used to mark different activities and resources on the Use and Occupancy maps. Left to right (top): goanna, echidna, ibis, black duck; (centre) food plant, weaving plant, swan, possum; (bottom) Macquarie perch, Murray cod, yabby, specialty w
Map icons are used to mark different activities and resources on the Use and Occupancy maps. Left to right (top): goanna, echidna, ibis, black duck; (centre) food plant, weaving plant, swan, possum; (bottom) Macquarie perch, Murray cod, yabby, specialty wood.

The Living Murray Indigenous Partnerships Project

The Living Murray (TLM) Indigenous Partnerships Program provides the opportunity for Aboriginal people to have a meaningful role in the management of icon sites:

Through the program, Aboriginal knowledge, cultural values and goals can be heard and included in environmental planning for icon sites. 

Program goals

The objectives of the TLM Indigenous Partnerships Program are to:

  • Provide opportunities for Aboriginal involvement in icon site planning
  • Incorporate Aboriginal knowledge and values into environmental water management through collaboration with management agencies
  • Offer support and resources for Aboriginal people to manage water in the future
  • Ensure that the cultural values of Aboriginal people are respected throughout the planning and management process for icon sites.

Aboriginal icon site facilitators

The Icon Site Facilitators work with Traditional Owners to improve the health of the River Murray by making the best use of water for the environment and incorporating cultural knowledge.

Aboriginal people have represented their communities and provided leadership. They participate in cultural heritage protection during construction, monitoring, fieldwork and water planning.

Aboriginal submissions database

The Aboriginal submissions database was created during the development of the Basin Plan and contains 480 Aboriginal submissions on the draft Plan. This is a very valuable collection of Aboriginal perspectives on water values and uses in the Basin.

Members of the Murray and Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) and the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN) are active custodians of the knowledge contained in the data base and will use this knowledge in discussions with water agencies on cultural uses and values of water.

Lake Victoria Cultural Heritage Program

Lake Victoria is an important cultural heritage site for the Aboriginal community whose occupation of the region dates back to at least 45,000 years ago. In 1994, the discovery of Aboriginal human remains and cultural artefacts in the Lake prompted the largest single cultural heritage conservation project in the Basin.

This project involves consultation with numerous stakeholder groups, including the Lake Victoria Advisory Committee and the Barkindji Maraura Elders Council, and incorporates a Cultural Landscape Plan of Management to protect cultural heritage within the landscape, the water storage operations and the re-establishment of native vegetation.


Updated: 31 Jan 2018