The Murray River

The Victorian Government’s newly announced Water is Life: Traditional Owner Access to Water Roadmap has been developed in consultation with Victoria’s Traditional Owners to increase their involvement in water management. 

Water is Life sets out the opportunities for Traditional Owners to access and manage water for spiritual, cultural and environmental purposes and serves as a framework to create and maintain a careful and considered balance between the rights and entitlements of everyone involved.

Water is Life includes Nation Statements from involved Traditional Owners, which – along with engagement with the community and the water industry – continue to define what the outcomes look like in each region.

The Victorian Government is investing $3.35 million over two years for the initial delivery of the Water is Life roadmap as well as $18 million for other Traditional Owner-led projects.

Victoria has so far returned 5.86 gigalitres of water to Traditional Owners across the state – supporting the self-determination of Traditional Owners by providing opportunities to manage water in ways that best meet their needs.

This includes when the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation were allocated a 2,500 megalitres of water entitlement of the Palawarra (Fitzroy River) for the first time in March 2022. 

Entitlements such as these will be used to restore cultural water flow paths in the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Budj Bim Cultural Landscape.

Maintaining the flow of water on Country is an essential aspect for managing the cultural values of Budj Bim, which contains the world’s most extensive and oldest aquacultural system. It contains a complex system of channels, weirs and dams that were developed by Gunditjmara to trap, store and harvest kooyang (short-finned eel).

Victorian Minister for Water, Harriet Shing, visited the world heritage listed Budj Bim site in southwest Victoria to launch the roadmap – building on self-determination for Indigenous Australians in Victoria.

“Traditional Owners have enduring cultural, spiritual, and economic connections to land, water and resources,” Ms Shing said. 

“They have managed land and water sustainably over thousands of generations on Country, and these connections deserve respect and recognition.”

The Water is Life Aboriginal water access roadmap will not affect irrigators’ water entitlements or allocations, nor will it mean that irrigators need to pay any additional fees and charges.

Victorian Minister for Treaty and First Peoples, Gabrielle Williams, said Traditional Owners have called for a greater role in the management of waterways for a long time.

Water is Life will provide greater opportunities to bring this to life as an important step on our journey to treaty.”

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