Objectives and principles for engaging with Aboriginal people

Engagement approach during COVID-19

The Aboriginal Water Coalition has advised that face-to-face engagement is preferable and in light of COVID-19, we should pause our engagement with Aboriginal people until restrictions ease.

All planned face-to-face meetings with Aboriginal communities in the Gwydir, Macquarie-Castlereagh and Lachlan regions occurred prior to COVID-19 restrictions enabling these documents to proceed to public exhibition.

We continue to work with the coalition to plan engagement across all the regions to ensure a balance between COVID-19 restrictions and the preference for face-to-face engagement.

The COVID-19 engagement approach is continually reviewed in line with the Australian Government requirements.

One of the objectives of the regional water strategies is to recognise and protect Aboriginal water rights, interests and access to water, including Aboriginal heritage assets.

We have been working with an Aboriginal Water Coalition (the coalition) to provide advice during the development of the strategies. The coalition has representatives from peak Aboriginal organisations including the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC), Native Title Services Corporation (NTSCorp), Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN) and Murray Lower Darling River Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN), along with representatives from Aboriginal Affairs and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

The coalition has co-developed an approach for engaging with Aboriginal communities and is supported by regional water strategy engagement principles. These principles recognise the need for a planned approach to properly engage Aboriginal people during all stages of the strategies process. The principles also encourage the proper notification of engagement activities and to ensure that information about strategies is clear and that all processes are as inclusive of Aboriginal people and organisations as possible.

Engagement approach

Our approach is to inform and involve Aboriginal communities during the development of the strategies including the development of draft options. We are committed to respectfully and proactively engage with communities, organisations and individuals.

In collaboration with the coalition, workshops with interested Aboriginal people are being held to discuss:

  • Water management
  • The regional water strategy process
  • Opportunities and challenges for the region
  • Regional profiles
  • Draft strategy options, and
  • Outcomes of the public exhibition process and strategy accreditation processes.

Workshops are facilitated by independent Aboriginal facilitators and focused on sharing information, building relationships and involving Aboriginal people in the development of regional water strategy options. Subject to COVID-19 requirements and advice from the coalition, workshops are being held in several local communities across each water strategy region and are accompanied by presentations including maps and information sheets. These workshops inform ‘What We Heard’ Reports in each region. Find out more about water management for Aboriginal people.

Building on prior work

We are also building on our prior work with Aboriginal communities; a six pillar model was developed that describes key water objectives and outcomes for Aboriginal people. These pillars have been a starting point for discussion with Aboriginal communities about the regional water strategies.