In 1998, the Yorta Yorta people called for a gathering of First Nations from along the Murray River. Yorta Yorta people had been engaged in a years-long Native Title case, pursuing recognition of their rights over land and water in Northern Victoria. Sadly, the Native Title claim was unsuccessful, and First Nations saw the need to unite and build solidarity for the protection land and water.
That first gathering of the Nations along the Murray resulted in the establishment of the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations Confederation.The original membership included delegates from ten First Nations along the Murray and Lower Darling Rivers.
MLDRIN was then registered as a not-for-profit company with the Australian Securities and Investment Corporation (ASIC). The MLDRIN Constitution outlines the Company’s objectives and the rights and responsibilities of the First Nation delegates, who make up its membership. An initial membership of ten Nations had grown to twenty five by 2017, with representation from all three States in the Southern Basin as well as the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
Throughout the early 2000’s, MLDRIN developed greater strength as a united voice for First Nations connected by the rivers and waterways of the Murray Darling Basin. MLDRIN’s advocacy resulted in recognition by key government agencies including the then Murray Darling Basin Commission (MDBC). The first funding agreement with the MDBC was eventually finalized.
By 2017, MLDRIN secured agreements with the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, to deliver Aboriginal Waterways Assessments and to coordinate capacity building for member Nations.
In 2007 MLDRIN Delegates developed the Echuca Declaration, a groundbreaking statement that asserts the inherent rights of Rivers and the Traditional Owners as custodians. The Echuca Declaration also formalized the concept of Cultural Flows: water entitlements that are owned and managed by First Nations for a range of cultural, social, environmental and economic purposes. The ideas contained in the Echuca Declaration have contributed to important research and ongoing reform of water management in Australia.
From its inception, MLDRIN has worked to advance the rights and interests of First Nations in the management of Australia’s Murray-Darling river system. This advocacy contributed to recognition of Aboriginal interests in the Murray Darling Basin Plan. MLDRIN continues to work with Member Nations and key Government agencies to progress Aboriginal rights in the implementation of the Plan.