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In May 2010, as part of the endorsement of the Echuca Declaration, NBAN and MLDRIN Delegates defined Cultural Flows as:

“water entitlements that are legally and beneficially owned by [First] Nations, of a sufficient and adequate quantity and quality to improve the spiritual, cultural, environmental, social and economic conditions of those Nations. This is our inherent right.”

In March 2011, the National Cultural Flows Planning and Research Committee (NCFPRC) was established to oversee the development of the program for NCFRP. NBAN and MLDRIN Delegates played a key role in the Committee and in selecting the two research sites. The NCFRP used the two research sites to consider Cultural Flows in different cultural, environmental, social and economic settings, so as to develop a framework, principles and a solid evidence base, which could inform the recognition of First Nation water rights in different jurisdictions. The aim of the project was to see Cultural Flows embedded in the Australian water resource planning framework, so as to improve the cultural, environmental, social and economic conditions of First Nations people.

The project team aimed to develop rigorous and defendable knowledge on First Nations’ water interests, for the benefit of First Nations people, and drew on a range of scientific research methodologies and generations of cultural knowledge to do so.

The Project Objectives Were To:

1. Describe the current [First Nations] cultural water values, knowledge and needs across Australia, using scientific literature that included existing case studies, and local and regional forums.

2. Develop a methodology to articulate the cultural water values and needs of [First Nations people] with an emphasis on the Murray-Darling Basin, to inform water planning processes (i.e. through water volumes and water quality).

3. Quantify water volumes and identify watering and management regimes to meet the values and needs identified by [First] Nations at the research sites, through:
a. Hydrological and ecological modelling; and
b. on-ground watering trials.

4. Measure the multiple, ongoing and overlapping benefits of Cultural Flows for the [First] Nations.

5. Recommend policy and legal tools and reform for the effective implementation of Cultural Flows, through water planning processes as well as institutional and governance arrangements, legal strategies and reform.

The NCFRP Produced the Following Results:

Dhungala Baaka – Rethinking the Future of Water Management in Australia provides a broad overview of the project purpose and findings

The NCFRP Literature Review highlights the strong cultural association that First Nations have with water, and the long history of active water management. This report provided a basis for the subsequent research components.

Aboriginal Water Interests for Establishing Cultural Flows: Preliminary Findings Report outlines the results of the Participatory Action Research, describing cultural flow objectives and providing program logics and indicator frameworks for each of the research sites.

Toogimbie Wetlands and Gooraman Swamp Cultural Site Ecological Characterisation Report provides a character description of each of the case study sites, presenting the Traditional Aboriginal Knowledge and Western science ecological knowledge with a focus on the water-dependent components, processes, functions and services.

Toogimbie Wetlands Indicator Framework and Methodology Report describes the key monitoring and evaluation activities, including detailed sampling methods, that were conducted as part of the intended watering trial. Pre- and Post- flow data was collected.

Gooraman Swamp Cultural Flow Monitoring and Evaluation Plan outlines the monitoring and evaluation activities to be conducted at Gooraman Swamp should a future cultural flow occur. Baseline data was collected through this project.

The Field Work Results and Findings Report summarises the overall findings from the field components of the research.

The Cultural Flow Field Studies Final Report brings together what was learnt during the field-based research components and describes their implications for cultural flows more broadly across Australia.

The Cultural Flows Water Managers’ Guide describes the detailed methodology for undertaking cultural flow assessments, and is accompanied by a more succinct Cultural Flows Guide for First Nations.

The Multi-layer Plan for Cultural Flows in Australia: Legal and Policy Design maps out potential pathways for achieving water equality.

A Pathway to Cultural Flows in Australia summarises the key elements of the legal and policy analysis.

While the NCFRP research sites were geographically located in the Murray-Darling Basin, the project was established for the benefit of all First Nations across Australia.

Visit the National Cultural Flows Research Project website to learn more.