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Closing the water for people and communities gap: improving water services to First Nations remote communities

Closing the Gap Water security Water quality Drinking water Aboriginal people (Australia) Rural and remote communities Australia

In 2021, WSAA commissioned Eric Vanweydeveld, who has spent many years working on water quality and First Nations engagement in the water industry, to research and document the arrangements for water servicing of remote communities across Australia. The focus is on Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. In Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, and New South Wales (to a slightly lesser degree), First Nations communities are more commonly urban communities. Water services are generally supplied from well-established water networks, and the key recommendations are not necessarily applicable. A preliminary report was released in August 2022, at the inaugural Voices For The Bush conference in Alice Springs.

Through extensive research and engagement with stakeholders and the communities themselves, Eric has developed a review which maps the complex and opaque arrangements in each jurisdiction, highlighting the linkages, differences and legacies. The more this issue is explored, the more nuances are revealed, and this will continue in the future phases. In this report, WSAA presents the most complete snapshot that we can of the information we have obtained at time of publication.

Arising from Eric’s review, in this report WSAA and Eric propose findings and recommendations about how improving water servicing can help close the gap – and where we can start. We welcome the commitment of the new Commonwealth Government to implementing a renewed National Water Initiative. We believe it is the right vehicle through which governments can refine and embed these recommendations and initiatives, and steer meaningful progress, working with the urban water industry, WSAA, other stakeholders and most importantly, communities themselves.

Also included is the summary report and key recommendations, as well as a case study prepared by Central Land Council.

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