For tens of thousands of years, First Nations peoples have cared for Country and kept rivers and waterways healthy and flowing. But since colonisation, decades of mismanagement, overextraction and climate change have left the lifeblood of this country polluted, diverted, and dried up.

The state of Australia’s rivers and waterways is not just an environmental crisis – it is an enormous injustice to First Nations people who have cared for Country for at least 65,000 years and who rely on healthy water flowing for healthy people and culture.

First Nations communities along the Murray-Darling Basin have developed a new concept of water management called ‘cultural flows’ that will not only restore life to Country but also justice to First Nations communities.

Cultural flows return water and its rights and management to Traditional Owners to improve the spiritual, cultural, natural, environmental, social and economic conditions of their Nations.

At Margooya Lagoon or Tol Tol, Tati Tati Elders are establishing a model that will identify how to turn the concept of cultural flows into a practical reality.

Their hope is that this model can return healthy flows to Tati Tati Country and also provide a template for other First Nations communities seeking water justice.

Hear the Tati Tati First Nation's story

Read more about how to make cultural flows a reality at Margooya Lagoon

Cultural flows are water entitlements that are legally and beneficially owned by the Nations of a sufficient and adequate quantity and quality to improve the spiritual, cultural, natural, environmental, social and economic conditions of those Nations.

Echuca Declaration, MLDRIN

Water is life, it's our life. Our people have always maintained water on Country. We have a responsibility to our ancestors to care for Country and maintain healthy spiritual and cultural flows.

Brendan Kennedy, Tati Tati Elder, Director of Tati Tati Kaiejin, artist, linguist and teacher

Murray River people are water people – our culture relies on healthy water flowing across Country naturally. The health of Margooya Lagoon has a direct impact and influence on the health of our people emotionally, spiritually, physically, and culturally. When there’s no water there, it has a devastating effect on our people.

Brendan Kennedy, Tati Tati Elder, Director of Tati Tati Kaiejin, artist, linguist and teacher

If Tati Tati can develop a cultural flows model at Margooya Lagoon, then there’s an enormous opportunity for governments to step up and achieve real gains for Aboriginal people and their control and authority over water. That means reversing the “aqua nullius” First Nations communities face – being shut out of the control or having any meaningful authority over the water on their Country in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Bruce Lindsay, Senior Lawyer, EJA