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North Australian Indigenous Experts Water Futures Forum (Mary River Forum) NT 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009 - 08:00 to Thursday, August 6, 2009 - 16:00
Event Type: 

The North Australian Indigenous Water Experts Forum 2009 provided an opportunity to raise ideas or concerns about economic development and opportunities; the potential impacts of developments in the north of Australia; and governance and institutional arrangements as they affect Indigenous community interests, aspirations and issues.

NAILSMA was commissioned by the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce to convene a forum to bring together key Indigenous water experts from across the north of Australia to discuss their water interests and issues. The meeting was convened at Mary River Park in the Northern Territory 5-6 August 2009.  It is often referred to as the 'Mary River Forum'.


NAILSMA was asked to convene a meeting to consult with Indigenous people on their social and cultural connections to water resources;

  • their economic development aspirations that are reliant on access to and development of locally or regionally significant water resources; and,

  • how they perceive current or proposed water resource management and governance arrangements (positive and negative impacts), and their ability to pursue their economic development aspirations.

These are based on the Taskforce’s Terms of Reference.


Outcomes of the workshop were reported to the Taskforce to provide a better understanding of:

the complexity of the issue of water, development and Indigenous disadvantage;

  1. Indigenous social, economic and cultural connections to water resources;

  2. Indigenous views on the sustainability of their freshwater systems;

  3. Indigenous visions for water, in terms of socio-cultural and political economy aspirations;

  4. Indigenous water use, particularly for social, cultural and economic purposes;

  5. Indigenous views on social, economic and cultural impacts of Indigenous loss of control of water management and use (historical and contemporary);

  6. ideas of models or structures for best governance or management of country and its water resources from an Indigenous perspective;

  7. the need to support indigenous leadership with respect to the development of the north;

  8. the complexity of institutional roles and responsibilities; and,

  9. the need for proper process regarding development of the north and the interconnectedness between land and people.

The Forum Outcomes Report that included recommendations and Mary River Statement, contributed to the Taskforce's final report, which was submitted to the Federal Government in February, 2010.

View the Forum Outcomes Report and the Mary River Statement