Sharing Indigenous water expertise

The word ‘Indigenous’ is used around the world in different ways. In Australia, different terms are used by different people. This includes ‘Indigenous’, ‘Indigenous Peoples’, ‘Traditional Owners’, ‘Traditional Custodians’, ‘Aboriginal’, or ‘First Nations Peoples’. Furthermore, Indigenous language is deeply engrained in cultural jurisdictions, Traditional Knowledge and in connections to Country. AWP respects and supports these differences when engaging at the local, domestic and international levels. At AWP, we use “Indigenous” respectfully, recognising that other terms could be used.

Our recent ‘Sharing Water and Climate Stories’ dialogue series was a learning and explorative experience for AWP and our partners. It brought together water managers across Australia and the Indo-Pacific, Indigenous and non-Indigenous People to share knowledge, research, stories and experiences of their water resource management and climate action journey. Launched in August 2022, the series sought to create momentum across the Australian water sector on water and climate action including the complexities of bringing traditional knowledge and western science together, in the lead up to and following the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 and the UN 2023 Water Conference. Recordings of these dialogues are available on our website.

The discussions focused on Indigenous engagement in climate resilient water management at the international level, its benefits, its current limitations, and ways to improve international processes and participation. This experience highlighted differences in the values that people have in relation to water, and the impact that these differences have on water resource management. The dialogues provided a space for conversation around the importance of partnerships, the need for advocacy and the urgency for Indigenous Peoples to have a seat at the decision-making table.

Our work to date has provided the consistent message that we need to increase engagement and collaboration with Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Knowledge is an important part of Australia’s water story and AWP actively respects and recognises the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ needs to move beyond symbolic acknowledgement to practical action. While at AWP, we recognise local communities and Indigenous People’s strength, savviness, and know-how, which for Indigenous Australians spans thousands of years, we also acknowledge that action requires resources, decision making power and support.

AWP will continue to work with Indigenous representatives from Australia and the region to showcase their knowledge and provide a space for their leadership in the water sector.

Featured image: WASH water project in Nepal. Photo by Jim Holmes, AusAID
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