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Cultural flows

A multi-layer plan for cultural flows in Australia: legal and policy design
Environmental management First Peoples land management Aboriginal water use Cultural awareness Australia

As part of re-setting water law and management, this report provides a suite of legal models and tools for giving effect to cultural flows. It details a three-pronged approach pathway for achieving those aims. The focus on practical and feasible legal measures for cultural flows is designed to capture a range of opportunities for more effective recognition of First Nations’ interests and roles in water law and management.

Key Findings:

  • Water Rights: Water rights are the core of the package of legal and policy measures to give effect to cultural flows. Water rights models are centred on water laws. This approach accords closely with First Nations’ responsibilities for on Country management by providing models of water rights at various scales from water shares to statutory reserves.
  • Increase influence in water landscapes: This approach delivers expanded First Nations’ influence over water landscapes by strengthening existing laws and policies that broadly affect water management, outside of the formal water rights systems. It also delivers greater consideration of cultural flows through influencing water rights held by non-First Nations water users.
  • Transform foundations: This approach recognises the imperative for governance measures to be effectively aligned and, as necessary, reformed and reappraised for cultural flows arrangements to work.
  • Individual First Nations have diverse circumstances, and Australia’s different jurisdictions have varied laws relating to water. This means that it is not possible to recommend one universal pathway for implementing a program of cultural flows.

This report proposes three broad ‘approaches’ to policy, legal and institutional change to advance the development of legal models and tools to facilitate implementation of cultural flows.

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