A Shorten Labor Government will establish a National Indigenous Water Committee to ensure Indigenous water rights are properly managed and to drive policy change that guarantees cultural objectives for water access are achieved.
Water is an ancient and central component of Aboriginal life, dictating where Indigenous communities settled and shaping their spiritual identity.
Labor respects and honours the deep spiritual, cultural and customary connections Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have with the Australian landscape, and in particular the Murray-Darling Basin. Records show that Indigenous communities have lived along the banks of the rivers for close to 30,000 years.
Labor supports measures that help to address barriers faced by Indigenous people in water access and management, including addressing socio-economic disadvantages and knowledge gaps on water management mechanisms.
The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has followed Labor’s lead with the National Cultural Flows Research Project. This is a small step in the right direction, but does not go far enough in ensuring Indigenous people are adequately consulted and actively engaged in the water planning and distribution practices that are currently taking place.
Labor is also committed to establishing the National Indigenous Water Committee to ensure cultural objectives are explicitly identified and provided for in future water plans, the progress of which will be regularly monitored and publicly reported on.
Further, the National Water Commissioner will drive policy change and innovation, and investigate ways in which the use of water can be used for the economic development and empowerment of Indigenous communities.
Through this, Labor will ensure that adequate training and business development programs are in place to enable Indigenous communities to maximise the value of their cultural water resources. Labor recognises and values the traditional ownership of Indigenous communities in regard to cultural water and environmental flows.
The creation of the National Indigenous Water Committee will support Indigenous participation, autonomy and self-determination in our water management systems.
Labor developed the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and Labor is committed to delivering a healthy working basin for all users. Labor fought hard to include Indigenous water rights.
Only Labor will continue to support Traditional Owners in ongoing water management solutions.