Northern Basin Review sells Traditional Owners short

Traditional Owners in the Southern Murray-Darling Basin have condemned the findings of the Northern Basin Review, announced at a special briefing in Canberra today. The Murray Darling Basin Authority has recommended a 70 gigalitre (GL) cut to water recovery for the environment in the Northern Basin, down to 320 GL from 390 GL.

‘Cutting water recovery will hurt Aboriginal people and undermine our culture and wellbeing,’ MLDRIN Chairperson Rene Woods said.

‘Our cultural traditions and contemporary practices are inherently linked to the health of these waterways. All Basin governments have recognised the significance of natural flow regimes to sustaining some of the world’s most resilient cultures,’ Rene Woods said.

Studies conducted as part of the Northern Basin Review have highlighted the value of environmental flows to supporting Aboriginal culture and community wellbeing. Yet, today’s decision sells Traditional Owners short by failing to acknowledge Aboriginal rights and interests.

Cultural Flows needed

‘Rather than backing away from much needed reform, Basin governments should be addressing Aboriginal people’s rights by recovering water to support Cultural Flows: which are dedicated entitlements for Aboriginal Nations,’ Rene Woods said.

The findings of the Northern Basin Review have all but ignored Aboriginal interests apart from three small concessions relating to access to waterways, refurbishing of weir pools and greater Indigenous participation in water planning. These are all activities that Basin Governments should be required to undertake through Water Resource Plan implementation and other processes.

‘Traditional Owners will be asking: how has the assessment of socio-economic outcomes in the Northern Basin factored in the impacts on Aboriginal people from loss of their cultural heritage and impacts on their wellbeing?’ Rene Woods said.

‘The recommendations of this review, if formalised, would perpetuate the injustice experienced by Aboriginal people in the Northern Basin. We stand in solidarity with Traditional Owners in the Northern Basin today and will work with them to address these challenges,’ Rene Woods said.

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