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Aboriginal Water Program

NSW Aboriginal Water Strategy

We are co-designing a long-term Aboriginal Water Strategy with Aboriginal communities to ensure continued access to water resources for Aboriginal people.

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

Water is deeply entwined within Aboriginal culture and healthy waterways are critical to the wellbeing of Aboriginal communities across NSW.

About the strategy

The NSW Government is committed to partnering with First Nations and Aboriginal people to co-design a state-wide Aboriginal water strategy that will deliver water rights for communities and include their interests in water management.

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

As part of the strategy development, we will review and identify the required amendments to the water management legislative framework to enable Aboriginal rights, interests and ownership of water.

The strategy will also help to revise existing and developing water policy and planning approaches, and design programs that deliver outcomes for First Nations and Aboriginal communities.

Strategy principles

The department consulted with Aboriginal communities, Traditional Owners and their representative organisations in the former Aboriginal Water Coalition – made up of NSW Aboriginal peak bodies with water interests – in over 50 workshops to help develop the strategy’s principles.

More than 250 First Nations people were engaged with through this Nation-by-Nation approach, helping to improve engagement with First Nations and Aboriginal people at grassroots and community levels.

The endorsed and adopted principles resulting from these engagements cover:

  • 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.

Artist opportunity

The department recently invited Aboriginal artists and designers from across NSW to be involved in the creation of artworks for the NSW Aboriginal Water Strategy, with each artwork to depict the integral role water plays in the community.

Requests for quote have now closed and successful artists will be contacted by the department.

More information

For more information, visit the NSW Water Strategy.