AbstractsLaw & Legal Studies

A web of Aboriginal water rights: examining the competing Aboriginal claim for water property rights and interests in Australia

by Virginia Anne Marshall

Institution: Macquarie University
Year: 2014
Keywords: Water rights; Water  – Law and legislation; Water resources development  – Law and legislation; Indigenous peoples  – Legal status, laws, etc; Aboriginal; water rights; drought; water law; water resources
Record ID: 1061372
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.14/324110


"Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy" "March 2014" Chapter 1: Introduction to a web of Aboriginal water interests  – Chapter 2: Literature review  – Chapter 3: Methodology  – Chapter 4: The nature of water rights – contested notions of water use  – Chapter 5: Aboriginal values – The Murray-Darling Basin and the Commonwealth Water Act  – Chapter 6: The implications for Aboriginal health of self-determination and water rights  – Chapter 7: Achieving intergenerational wealth development in water rights  – Chapter 8: Aboriginal water rights & interests: legislative and policy development  – Chapter 9: Securing Aboriginal water rights through human rights. Around the time that this doctoral research into Aboriginal water rights and interests in Australia commenced a former Prime Minister of Australia remarked that Australia was in the ‘worst drought for a hundred years’. During the following eight years of thesis research a regular review of media articles about Australia’s ‘worst drought’ highlighted the dire effects of restricted water access and its use on the farming community, irrigators and other non-Indigenous interests in water. From this point it was clear to the author that the water rights and interests of Aboriginal peoples in Australia were rarely mentioned in the Australian media. An Aboriginal perspective on these national issues demanded ‘a voice’ to examine and analyse why Aboriginal water values and concepts relating to the use of water was effectively a non-issue in the national consciousness. In 2014 various media organisations have again declared that Australia is in ‘the worst drought in living memory’. The Aboriginal claim to a property right and interest is examined from an Aboriginal perspective. The thesis examines Aboriginal concepts and values of water and posits that Aboriginal values not only exist as ancestral rights, but should be formally incorporated within the body of Australian water law. The thesis argues that although an Aboriginal ancestral water use and contemporary use of water represent different ideological concepts, as the chapters discuss, it is reasonable to submit that the cultural and economic water requirements of Aboriginal communities in Australia should be recognised and incorporated into Australia’s legal system on the basis of how Aboriginal peoples value water and its use.The argument is developed in a number of ways. In applying an Aboriginal perspective to water rights and regulation in Australia, the thesis establishes a new understanding in the significance of water to Aboriginal peoples and that, the value of water for Aboriginal peoples is inextricably connected to, and informed by, a wider system of laws and customs which govern its use and protection. The thesis demonstrates how Aboriginal peoples continue to maintain their cultural rights to water in Australia and why they require national recognition. As the thesis will show, Western and European perceptions of Aboriginal peoples relationship to…