Skip navigation
The Australian National University

Commercial Water and Indigenous Australians: A Scoping Study of Licence Allocations

Working Paper 57 / 2009

Abstract

This report is the outcome of a scoping exercise commissioned by the National Water Commission (NWC) to determine the water licences and allocations to Indigenous people for commercial use across all States and Territories (except the Australian Capital Territory) in Australia. This preliminary study was carried out between mid December 2008 and early February 2009.

The empirical research reported here attempts to document for the first time actual allocations of water licences and entitlements to identified Indigenous users on a state-by-state jurisdictional basis.

There were three specific tasks involved in this exercise. First, to contact the main Indigenous business institutions to determine what Indigenous businesses use water, and potentially have a water access entitlement. Second, contact the relevant jurisdictional water licensing authorities to clarify if a water access entitlement had been issued, and if so, obtain general details of the licence. Finally, to collate information into table form and summarise the findings.

It must be emphasised that we have focused here on allocation of water to Indigenous businesses for commercial purposes and not for customary (non-market) purposes that can have a significant impact on people’s livelihoods. The distinction between commercial and customary use is discussed briefly.