Australasian Journal of Water Resources Volume 20, 2016 – Issue 2

Australian Indigenous Water Policy and the impacts of the ever-changing political cycle.

Katherine Selena Taylor, Bradley J. Moggridge & Anne Poelina (2017)                             

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.

Indigenous Water Rights

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).

Seeking Water Justice: Hearing the Voice of the Sacred Salmon

The Water Ethics Working Group is co-organizing a workshop on water and ecocentrism at Willamette University (Salem, Oregon) on June 16-17, 2017. The workshop is primarily organized by Dr. Susan Smith, also a member of the Water Ethics Working Group. The workshop comprises a public series of talks on Friday afternoon, June 16, and then a Working Group meeting on Sat. morning.

Seeking Water Justice: Hearing the Voice of the Sacred Salmon
Afternoon and Evening, June 16, 2017, with additional activities, June 17-18.

Please join us Friday afternoon, June 16, 2017 at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon to participate in a conversation about water and eco-centrism. This afternoon workshop will feature discussions among water resources activists, professionals and scholars, along with experts in conflict management, ethics, and theology, broadly exploring the theme of water and eco-centrism. The workshop is sponsored by Willamette’s Sustainable Environment, Energy, and Resources law program and the Water Ethics Working Group, Sustainable Water Future, Global Future.

The first session focuses on Native American and First Nations spiritual perspectives — particularly with respect to human responsibilities towards water, salmon and other species — and the power of those perspectives to radically alter traditional water resource management. Our discussion will be sparked by three brief presentations highlighting contributions of indigenous peoples to resolving water and fisheries conflicts in the Klamath Basin, the Columbia River, and the broader Pacific Northwest area.

The second session will dive deep — exploring whether and how our deep values, spirituality, and faith should reshape the way we interact with water and the lives that depend upon it, and how we might harness that transformative potential. Participants are invited to share knowledge about the values various faith communities and cultures place on water and non-human life, along with the implications of those values for governing water with a truly eco-centric perspective.

A reception and light dinner will give us an informal opportunity to continue our conversation.
On Saturday morning, we will have a working meeting of the interested participants. The water ethics working group of the Sustainable Water Future program will be gathering to identify its research directions and publications, particularly those suggested by Friday afternoon’s conversation. The working group will be considering a proposed publication on transforming water resources management towards an eco-centric perspective, tentatively titled “Transforming Water.” Participants interested in contributing articles or chapters to this or other publications are cordially invited to attend.

The workshop is limited to 32 participants. Contact Professor Susan Smith immediately if you are interested in participating, or +1 (503)586-8619. No fee will be charged to invited participants and participants will be covering their own expenses to attend.