Skip to main content
Home / Sections / Country / Water

Recognising Traditional Owners’ right to manage water brings ecological, economic, cultural and community benefits.

Traditional Owners have fundamental rights to manage and care for seas, rivers, wetlands and lakes.


But these rights have been systemically denied and disrespected – which harms Traditional Owner communities and the Country they care for.

The Federation supports Traditional Owner groups to be restored to their rightful place as decision-makers for water. Our work respects Traditional Owners’ enduring cultural connection to water, ongoing use and management of waterways, and right to benefit from economic activities relating to water.

Recognising Traditional Owner groups’ rights to water is just one part of the picture. Traditional Owners must be enabled to exercise these rights: using land and waters to meaningfully leverage social, cultural and economic outcomes. The Federation’s work helps see this happen.

The Federation worked with Traditional Owner groups and the Victorian Government to embed Traditional Owner ambitions for healing Country into the Water is Life: Traditional Owner Access to Water Roadmap.

The Nation Statements assert Traditional Owner groups’ sovereignty and describe the cultural importance of water to their communities. Their inclusion showed a significant shift in the way policy is being developed in Victoria.


The Federation is involved in planning for increased Traditional Owner access to water.

In March 2021, the Federation worked with the University of Melbourne, MILDRIN and the Victorian Government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to release Cultural Water for Cultural Economies.

In October 2021, the Department released the Drawing the Roadmap for Aboriginal Access to Water (the Roadmap) Discussion Paper. The Federation worked with Traditional Owners to develop a response to the draft, submitted in November of that year.

Building on this work, the Federation has actively engaged with the Department in development of a Traditional Owner Access to Water Roadmap. 


The Federation is partnering with Emergency Recovery Victoria to deliver the Aboriginal Culture and Healing Flood Recovery Grant Program.

The program seeks to recognise the disproportionate impact that natural disasters have on Aboriginal people and communities and centre Aboriginal organisations in responding to the October 2022 floods.