Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations

Aboriginal Water Rights

MLDRIN’s core work involves advancing our members rights to protect, manage and own water resources on their traditional Country.

First Nations have inherent rights to use and manage waterways, in order to sustain our cultural traditions and build sustainable livelihoods for our communities.

These rights are recognised in international agreements and protocols, as well as in Australia’s domestic law and policy.

However, Australian governments have consistently failed to meet these commitments.

Reliable estimates of Aboriginal water ownership in the Basin are hard to find, but a 2010 study commissioned by the Murray Darling Basin Authority found that Aboriginal people had ownership rights over just 8,237 megalitres (ML) of water. [1]

That’s just 0.00007% of the total Basin Sustainable Diversion Limit! [2]

Aboriginal people are marginalised from the modern water market.

Likewise, Aboriginal people face challenges having their voices heard in decisions about how water should be managed.


[1] W.S (Bill) Arthur (2010) The Murray-Darling Basin Regional and Basin Plans: Indigenous water and land data. Murray Darling Basin Authority, Commonwealth of Australia. MDBA Publication No 20/12

[2] Murray Darling Basin Plan S. 6.04 (2) Note. p. 28