Outputs from National Drinking Water Forum in remote First Nations communities Released

The Goyder Institute for Water Research have released a comprehensive report capturing the outcomes of the national ‘Working together for better drinking water in the bush’ forum held in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) on 27-29 June 2023. This collaborative event, delivered in partnership with the Australian Government through the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) and Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA), brought together diverse participants from across South Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia, including Aboriginal community representatives, land councils, utilities, health regulators, service providers and national, state and territory, and local government agencies.  

The report is a culmination of the collaborative efforts and insights shared at the forum, which identified twelve pivotal actions critical to advancing the provision of safe and reliable drinking water in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. 

Dr Alec Rolston, Director of the Goyder Institute for Water Research said “Building on work that has gone before, this report describes the challenges faced daily by First Nations remote and regional communities in securing clean and safe drinking water. Through bringing diverse people and organisations together from across Australia, we worked together to identify solutions for these challenges and priority actions needed to address ongoing issues faced by people living in remote communities.” 

Raymond Penangke, of Penangke Collaborative Cultural Consultancy said “The concept of self-determination and well-informed decision-making can vary subjectively. If we don’t include all the relevant information in discussions, when the information is too difficult to understand, and when Aboriginal people lack a culturally safe space to express their truths, achieving sustainable change within their community becomes counterproductive and an unrealistic expectation. I take pride in our accomplishment of facilitating a forum where Aboriginal people could share their voices on a significant issue impacting their families and community. Their passion and sense of responsibility as advocates for their community were both powerful and inspiring.” 

Jimmy Cocking, CEO, Desert Knowledge Australia, said “The format of the forum provided a safe and respectful space for everyone to contribute equally. The combination of knowledge shared from lived experience in communities, cultural knowledge of country along with more than a thousand years of work and professional experience in the room culminated in a robust set of agreed priority actions. There was an expectation in the room that these actions will be acted upon.” 

The top five actions identified by the forum participants were: 

  1. Developing national principles on safe drinking water for remote communities. 
  1. Prioritising health by addressing national health targets. 
  1. Creating a local First Nations Water Authority with First Nations voices to provide expertise on water in remote communities. 
  1. Undertaking a coordinated community education program to increase awareness and understanding of remote drinking water issues. 
  1. Providing guidance on appropriate drinking water technologies and their suitability for remote communities. 

The actions described in the report will contribute significantly to enhancing quality of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander remote and regional communities. 

To delve deeper into the findings and recommendations of the Working together for better drinking water in the bush Report, please visit https://goyderinstitute.org/project/working-together-for-better-drinking-water-in-the-bush/  

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