The National Water Council’s (NWC) CEO James Cameron has called for State Governments to meet their obligations under the National Water Initiative by providing Indigenous Australians with ready access to water resources for cultural and economic purposes.


Mr Cameron’s calls coincides with a release of the Commission’s position statement on Indigenous water, which reiterates the importance of water in Indigenous cultural and social life.


“This is recognised in Australia’s blueprint for water reform, the National Water Initiative, which commits governments to identify Indigenous values and requirements in water planning, as well as to put in place strategies to meet them,” Mr Cameron said.


Mr Cameron welcomed preliminary moves by the state’s to engage with Ingidenous stakeholders, he bemoaned a lack of a coherent national approach.


To advance the interests of Indigenous Australians in water planning and management decisions, the Commission established the First Peoples' Water Engagement Council (FPWEC).


The FPWEC provided formal advice to the Commission on 30 May 2012 as the culmination of an extensive program of work and consultation to bring a national Aboriginal voice to water reform.


“Allocating water rights can create economic opportunities for Indigenous Australians in areas as diverse as aquaculture, tourism or horticulture. The allocation of water entitlements to assist Indigenous economic development is a legitimate strategy for contributing to the Australian Government’s Closing the Gap agenda and should be explicitly considered in that context,” Mr Cameron said.


“The Northern Territory and Queensland governments have already provided specific water allocations to Indigenous peoples in the form of Strategic Indigenous Reserves. The Commission applauds this move and strongly supports efforts to expand this approach. In some areas of Australia, the acquisition of water rights for Indigenous economic development purposes may be necessary.


“Crucially, Indigenous Australians should also be involved in decisions about how cultural and environmental water is used.”


The position statement can be found here