First Peoples are leading the conversation about Indigenous water rights policy in Australia. This paper reviews contemporary Aboriginal water policy and initiatives. We examine the ever-changing cycles of government action and inaction, and First Peoples’ responses. Three case studies: Strategic Indigenous Reserves in the Northern Territory, the First Peoples’ Water Engagement Council and the Fitzroy River Declaration illustrate: (1) First People’s expressions of the right to self-determination in relation to water; (2) First Peoples’ contributions to integrated water resource management principles and water governance in Australia; and (3) that State/Commonwealth Aboriginal water initiatives are often discontinued when elected government changes, and rarely given strength through legislation. We finish the review with policy recommendations that underline the need to ‘break the cycle’ of inconsistent government initiatives.
Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP), recognizing their right to maintain “their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditional…lands, territories, waters and coastal seas”. Yet last year also saw the violent defeat of Indigenous Americans in Standing Rock protecting their traditional lands and waters from construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Is there any reason to celebrate UN-DRIP’s 10-year milestone? The world is still lagging in recognizing Indigenous rights, noted the official UN statement on the anniversary, but as Pamela Jacquelin-Andersen explains in this blogpost, without the UN declaration, things would be even worse. UN-DRIP has clearly strengthened the legal standing of Indigenous communities in some instances (link to article in Cultural Survival Quarterly).
Jeremy J. Schmidt’s new book titled “Water
Abundance, Scarcity, and Security in the Age of Humanity” is available now.
Water: Abundance, Scarcity, and Security in the Age of Humanity, details the remarkable intellectual history of America’s water management philosophy. It shows how this philosophy shaped early twentieth-century conservation in the United States, influenced American international development programs, and ultimately shaped programs of global governance that today connect water resources to the Earth system. Schmidt demonstrates how the ways we think about water reflect specific public and societal values, and illuminates the process by which the American approach to water management came to dominate the global conversation about water. See more information and discount code here: Schmidt Book flyer