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Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners of the Murray–Darling Basin

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Owners, and their Nations, of the Murray–Darling Basin, who have a deep cultural, social, environmental, spiritual and economic connection to their lands and waters.

The MDBA understands the need for recognition of Traditional Owner knowledge and cultural values in natural resource management associated with the Basin.

The approach of Traditional Owners to caring for the natural landscape, including water, can be expressed in the words of the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations Board:

As the First Nations peoples (Traditional Owners) we are the knowledge holders, connected to Country and with the cultural authority to share our knowledge. We offer perspectives to balance and challenge other voices and viewpoints. We aspire to owning and managing water to protect our totemic obligations, to carry out our way of life, and to teach our younger generations to maintain our connections and heritage through our own law and customs. When Country is happy, our spirits are happy.

Explanation of language and terms

There are different preferences for naming inherited identities of original peoples living in the Murray–Darling Basin and their connections to Country. For example, some prefer Ancestral ownership, others Sovereign or Traditional ownership. Some people have a preference for the term Aboriginal, while others prefer Indigenous or First Nations people.

The Water Act 2007 (Cth) and the Basin Plan 2012 uses the term Indigenous to refer to matters that relate to Aboriginal people. Based on the advice from both the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) and the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN), the MDBA will use the term 'Aboriginal' to refer to all relevant Traditional Owner groups in the Basin.

The exception is where specific sections from the Water Act or Basin Plan are directly quoted, when naming formal instruments, and in the Akwé:Kon Guidelines (for the conduct of cultural, environmental and social impact assessments). In all other instances the term Aboriginal is used.

The term Traditional Owners is used to refer to those with recognised cultural authority to speak for Country.

Engagement and partnerships with Traditional Owners

The MDBA considers partnerships with Basin Traditional Owners to be a key priority across all areas of water management. The health of the Basin benefits from meaningful, equitable, inclusive and respectful partnerships with Traditional Owners and their involvement in water planning and management is a key priority.

The MDBA engages with Traditional Owners in line with the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and the Akwé:Kon Guidelines. These frameworks ensure that Traditional Owners are engaged in an appropriate manner, which includes providing adequate information about the consent process, appropriate time and information.

The MDBA website may contain images, names or quotations of deceased persons. Wherever possible, the MDBA will take reasonable steps to prevent material from being published after a death.

Ronald Hughes and Cody Campbell from the Dhudhuroa Nation, in Dhudhuroa Yaitmaithang Country, Falls Creek, Victoria. Photo by Ipshita Mondal
Ronald Hughes and Cody Campbell from the Dhudhuroa Nation, in Dhudhuroa Yaitmaithang Country, Falls Creek, Victoria. Photo by Ipshita Mondal



Updated: 23 Mar 2022