Water Journal : Water Journal July 2012
water JULY 2012 49 interview A: What are the key issues that arose from the Summit? P: We want good, healthy communities with strong and vibrant economies and good environmental outcomes. We want to maintain cultural and spiritual relationships. When the river is healthy, we are healthy. It is essential to keep rural economies and labour markets sustainable. Outside metropolitan areas all our people are connected to employment that relies on strong and vibrant rural economies. Our people have strong traditional ecological knowledge that can inform how our water systems and environments are managed. There is some good work being done to incorporate Aboriginal interests in water planning. There are also many cases of policy and process impediments that are preventing this. The Summit affirmed the central importance of being recognised and accepted as equal stakeholders and active participants in water planning and decision- making on water issues that affect our communities, economies and environment. A: What do you see as the way forward to achieving these outcomes? P: On local levels, we see working in partnership with irrigators, farmers and environment groups as the best way to reach positive outcomes for all. With our land base across the country, effective partnerships can deliver environmental, economic and employment outcomes that we all want to see. We also want to see governments and their water agencies collaborating in good faith with Aboriginal people, to develop water plans and management strategies that effectively incorporate Aboriginal rights, needs, priorities and values as part of the implementation of the current reform agendas, including the National Water Initiative. We are also advocating for joint approaches to research that will enable this research to be resourced effectively to provide credible evidence that supports Aboriginal involvement. The Summit highlighted work being done to incorporate Aboriginal involvement in water planning and examples of successful partnerships, including: • The achievements of North Australian Indigenous Land & Sea Management Alliance's (NAILSMA) Indigenous Water Policy Group and Indigenous Community Water Facilitator Network Initiatives, which were presented by Joe Morrison. • NSW Water Commissioner, David Harriss, described NSW Office of Water's project to enhance Aboriginal engagement in water planning, identify water-dependent cultural assets, establish networks between staff and Aboriginal communities and improve the delivery of water management information relevant to Aboriginal communities. • The use of the Community Water Planner Tools to improve drinking water supply in remote communities was presented by Robyn Grey-Gardner from the NWC. Robyn described the key challenges to providing safe and reliable drinking water supplies in remote Aboriginal communities in Australia, and how community involvement in the whole planning process of understanding the supply, developing their own strategies and matching the strategies to the communities' needs and resources can lead to positive outcomes. A: What message would you like to send to the water sector? P: We want to work with you. We want to be a building block, not a stumbling block. Phil Duncan is a member of the Gamilaroi Nation from Moree, north-western New South Wales. Phil is currently a Senior Policy Officer for the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council. He brings an extensive background and membership on many committees and councils. Phil was the inaugural Chair of the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water's Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee. In 2002 Phil was involved in the negotiations to establish the NSW Aboriginal Water Trust and has represented the interests of Aboriginal people in New South Wales on a range of other committees. Phil is currently the Chair of the National Water Commission's First Peoples' Water Engagement Council. Neva Collins addressing the Summit.
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