The Aboriginal Waterways Assessment (or AWA) is a tool which helps Traditional Owners to assess the cultural health of their Country and set priorities for environmental water delivery. The AWA is an assessment methodology that uses a consistent set of questions and ratings. Traditional Owners work to complete worksheets on country, and the information is used to produce maps, reports and charts that show the health of different sites within their traditional area. These results can then be used to advocate for the outcomes that Traditional Owners want.
To read a detailed explanation of how the AWA works, just follow this link to the MDBA’s Aboriginal Waterways Assessment program report.
MLDRIN delegates participated in a visit to Aotearoa/New Zealand to study the Maori Cultural Health Index. MDBA staff adapted the Cultural Health Index, with advice from MLDRIN and NBAN, to produce the current AWA tool.
MLDRIN continues to be involved in application of the AWA. We want to see Traditional Owners and Aboriginal organisations equipped to run the tool independently. This will build skills and employment and empower communities to push for the outcomes they want on Country.
In May 2016, MLDRIN received funding from the Victorian Government to run six Aboriginal Waterways Assessment (AWA) projects in Victorian Water Resource Plan areas. The funding is an exciting opportunity for Traditional Owners to use the AWA tool and document the cultural values and environmental health of waterways on Country. All information and data arising from the projects will be handed back to Traditional Owners to support effective engagement in water planning. MLDRIN has opened an expression of interest (EOI) process for the projects. All Traditional Owner groups within the Victorian Murray Darling Basin are invited to submit an EOI. Decisions on the role out of the projects will be informed by an Independent Panel. MLDRIN believes that all Traditional Owner groups should have the opportunity to run cultural mapping and assessment projects if deemed effective and appropriate by the community. To download an Expression of Interest form click here. For more information on the Victorian AWA projects click here.
As of April 2016, there have been five applications of the tool. Three pilot projects took place in 2015 (in Wamba Wamba, Dhudhuroa/Waywuru and Gamilaraay Country). There have been two further applications, one in the Australian Capital Territory and one in the South Australian Riverlands. In the coming years MLDRIN hope to see the AWA rolled out, as a partnership between Traditional Owners, Aboriginal organisations and Basin government agencies.
It is important to remember that the AWA is one methodology. It may not be suited to all Traditional Owner groups or all places. However, MLDRIN believes it offers a useful starting point for working together on country to identify Aboriginal watering objectives.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Aboriginal Waterways Assessment and MLDRIN’s role please contact us