Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations

Cultural Flows

“Cultural Flows” are water entitlements that are legally and beneficially owned by the Nations of a sufficient and adequate quantity and quality to improve the spiritual, cultural, natural, environmental, social and economic conditions of those Nations. These are our inherent rights.”

-MLDRIN Echuca Declaration, 2007

In 2007, MLDRIN created the Echuca Declaration, a ground-breaking statement that outlined First Nations’ rights and aspirations in water management. A key part of the Echuca Declaration was a definition of Cultural Flows. Just as ‘environmental flows’ are needed to sustain the ecological values of rivers, ‘cultural flows’ are needed to support the cultural traditions and community development needs of First Nations.

Aboriginal people have always cared for waterways and used water to sustain our culture and livelihoods. MLDRIN defined Cultural Flows as a way of translating Indigenous people’s water rights, needs and aspirations into the language of modern water management. First Nations have the right to own and manage water on our Country to support self-determination.

Today, MLDRIN is working to make sure Cultural Flows are recognised by Australian governments. We have achieved some success: the Murray Darling Basin Plan requires Basin governments to take account of First Nations’ views about cultural flows. State and Commonwealth governments are beginning to take steps to support First Nations to acquire water that we can own and manage.

MLDRIN was a key partner in the delivery of the National Cultural Flows Research Project. This project designed a pathway towards securing a future where Indigenous water allocations are embedded within Australia’s water planning and management regimes. In June 2018, the findings of this key research project were released. You can learn more about the Project by visiting the National Cultural Flows Research Project.

MLDRIN works with Member Nations to apply the Cultural Flows methodology. This is a platform to document water needs and advance First Nations water aspirations. 

For more information on the MLDRIN Cultural Flows program, contact the MLDRIN Cultural Flows Project Officer via