The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) acknowledges the First Nations communities of the Murray-Darling Basin and pays respect to their Elders past and present. We acknowledge First Nations people as the Traditional Owners and custodians of the land and waters of the Basin. We recognise the intrinsic connection of First Nations peoples to Country, and we value their enduring cultural, social, environmental, spiritual, and economic connection to the rivers, wetlands, and floodplains of the Basin.
The CEWO is committed to working meaningfully with First Nations peoples. Our aim is to include First Nations peoples, values and knowledge in the planning and management of water for the environment. In doing so, we aim to improve the wellbeing of the Basin’s communities, rivers, wetlands, floodplains.
We seek to be a trusted and valued organisation within First Nations communities of the Murray-Darling Basin.
How we work together
The CEWO works with First Nations people to plan, deliver and monitor water for the environment. This includes through direct partnerships, engagement through state government agencies and working with representative groups such as the Murray-Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) and Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN).
Stories and examples are highlighted below.
How to get involved with us
If you would like to reach out and learn more, please contact a Local Engagement Officer near you.
First Nations input to planning
The CEWO is committed to working with First Nations across the Basin in how we plan, deliver and monitor water for the environment. In 2021–22, we will continue to build relationships with First Nations’ organisations and communities, to learn from and identify ways to support cultural values alongside environmental outcomes.
Case study: Replenishing Dharriwaa
Outstanding environmental, cultural and social outcomes have all combined to raise the spirits of collaborative partners at the Ramsar site of Narran Lakes following water for the environment flows in 2020 and 2021.
Case study: Young Veins for future thriving waterways
Sharing stories of fishing trips, learning about Aboriginal tool-making, visiting cultural artifacts,walking in wetlands and seeing waterbugs and fish in various parts of the northern Murray-Darling Basin were just some of the inspirational activities NSW high school students enjoyed in 2020–21.
Case study: Environmental Watering Forum
On Latji Latji Country in April 2021, First Nations People from along the length of the Murray gathered in Mildura, to discuss ways to support cultural values alongside environmental outcomes in environmental water delivery.
Case study: Horseshoe Lagoon
Taungurung Land and Water Council (TLaWC) is leading the way at Horseshoe Lagoon demonstrating how cultural values, environmental objectives and on-Country knowledge sharing are critical to long term water management, Healing Country and meaningful collaboration.
Protecting Country and Culture with Nari Nari Tribal Council
Since 2016 the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, the Nari Nari Tribal Council and the NSW Department of Industry, Planning and Environment have worked together to deliver Commonwealth Environmental Water to Toogimbie IPA.
Case study: CEWO/NRA Partnership – Environmental flows for Teringie Wetlands
In 2019, the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority delivered Commonwealth environmental water to Teringie wetlands, alongside Lake Alexandrina.
Water is life – the Northern Fish Flow
From April–July 2019, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, released water for the environment down the Barwon-Darling. The flow connected the rivers and helped native fish including guduu (Murray cod), and gaygay (freshwater catfish) survive .
Strengthening connections with water for the environment
In 2019 - 20, First Nations peoples worked with the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) to incorporate their values and knowledge in planning for water for the environment over the next year.
Working together for Dharriwaa
For over seven years, the Narran Lakes and surrounding river system remained dry. The Lakes, known as Dharriwaa by the Yuwaalaraay/Euahlayi people, is a significant meeting place for Aboriginal peoples and a source of food and medicine. The origin story of Dharriwaa highlights its immense cultural significance and demonstrates the importance of the area, especially for waterbirds.
Learning with locals in monitoring and research: Turtle monitoring with Yarkuwa Indigenous knowledge Centre, NSW
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office’s on-ground science program, called Flow-MER, brings together scientists from some of Australia’s leading universities and research institutions. These scientists monitor, evaluate and study how plants and animals respond to water for the environment.