Aboriginal people hold less than 1% of all water licenses in Australia, a form of economic and cultural deprivation that requires immediate recovery, according to a large study of water rights in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Researchers from Griffith University found Indigenous water rights in parts of the New South Wales basin cover 0.2% of all available surface water, in areas where Aboriginal people comprise about 10% of the population.
This license, which the researchers say is “a small part” of water rights in the region, remains 75% of all water licenses known to be owned by indigenous peoples’ organizations throughout Australia.
“Worryingly, we also found that the amount of water held by Aboriginal organizations has decreased by 17% over the past 10 years,” said researchers from the Australian Rivers Institute, Dr. Lana Hartwig.
MDB is the largest water market in the world, valued at more than $ 16 billion. Aboriginal ownership in all parts of NSW is valued at 0.1%, or $ 16.5 million.
Researchers say Aboriginal water ownership also tends to be unsafe, which means they are not guaranteed an allocation every year.
“These results show conclusively that Australia’s water management system is unfair and unjust,” said Prof. Sue Jackson of Griffith University. “This has excluded indigenous peoples from accessing water and participating in the water economy.”
More than 40 Aboriginal countries, around 15% of the Aboriginal population and Torres Strait Islander population in Australia, live in the Murray-Darling Valley. They manage less than 1% of their land base.
Murray Lower Darling National Customary Rivers (MLDRIN) is a confederation of the 25 First Nations from the southern part of the basin.
“There is a fundamental problem with water justice at play here,” MLDRIN executive official Will Mooney said.
“The First Nations had inherent rights to water in their country, but as a result of the occupation, the development of water allocations, the water market, and the unbundling of land and water have increasingly distanced the First Nations from water access.
“There is a package of reforms needed to have an effect on water justice and it is more than just giving up rights.”
Mooney said the government had an obligation to provide water and ensure Aboriginal organizations did not face “an ongoing responsibility to be able to use and enjoy that water”.
Researchers are very critical of efforts to allocate water to Aboriginal groups, saying that the original ownership and revision of the water law “so far does not offer a meaningful way to redistribute water use rights, instead providing mere consultation and tokenistic protection of ‘cultural values’ ‘”
“Considering the Australian government is committed to increasing Indigenous water access under the national water policy in 2004, a decline in Aboriginal water ownership of at least 17.2%, plus evidence of ongoing vulnerability, is a significant finding that guarantees the restoration of urgent policies,” Hartwig and Jackson .
Lack of access to water is a major limitation on “political, cultural and socioeconomic goals held by Aboriginal people”, they said.
Gomeroi’s original rights holder and chairman of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority community committee, Phil Duncan, said there were serious questions about how water allocation for Aboriginal people had shrank by 17% in the last decade.
“Having a water allocation allows us to carry out our cultural obligations, to be involved in caring for and improving our area,” Duncan said.
“If we are given economic water allocation, we can use it in the current climate, to look at Indigenous food security and partnerships in the rural sector, so Aboriginal landowners can see the growth of indigenous Indigenous food products, or planting, organizing and creating jobs for rural communities. who is struggling. “
Some communities, said Duncan, “are on the brink of collapse”.
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