Research Progress

Current as of September 2016. 

Component One

Describing Indigenous cultural values and needs across Australia

Australian Cultural Heritage Management, in collaboration with Flinders University, was commissioned to undertake this literature review. The report was completed in late 2013.

Component One Literature Review Report highlights the consistent views held by Indigenous people across Australia in relation to water and cultural flows. This report provides a basis from which the ensuing research components can build.

The National Cultural Flows Research Project encourages consideration of the contents of this report in conjunction with the following information:


Component two

Develop and use methodologies to describe and measure cultural water uses, values, and needs of particular Australian Indigenous communities with a focus on the Murray-Darling Basin

The Research Committee has decided to focus the research on two sites: Toogimbie Wetlands (near Hay, NSW) and Gooraman Swamp (near Weilmoringle, NSW). Conceptual models and draft methodologies have been developed by the research team. 

On-ground social research aspects of the field studies are coming to a conclusion and the modelling and monitoring activities are ramping up.

Preliminary findings of the research, provided by Rural Solutions South Australia, suggest that the Project is gathering strong evidence to support the case for the value of cultural flows. There are significant personal development, cultural, economic, health and wellbeing outcomes from water ownership. These findings outline the methodology that has been developed to describe Aboriginal water interests, including cultural assets, values, uses and aspirations. 


Component Three

Quantify water volumes to meet cultural values and needs, and scientific assessment of trial flows

Preliminary modelling, through the hydraulic and hydrological modelling report, shows that the different contexts at the two research sites provide a useful platform for trialling methodologies and approaches to quantify water needs.

Satellite imagery and ground surveys have been used at Toogimbie Wetlands, in order to define water extent during historical floods and identify tipping points for river inundation. The confirmed cultural flows objectives will be used as the basis for predicting the outcomes of different flow regimes. These regimes will be compared with observed results at Toogimbie. 

A trial flow plan has been developed for Toogimbie Wetlands, in collaboration with the Nari Nari participants and with advice from the CEWO (the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office). The plan incorporates a range of templates that should be adaptable for use at other sites.


Component Four

Develop and implement a monitoring methodology of the ecological and socio-economic, health and wellbeing outcomes of cultural flows and analyse how they compare with environmental flow outcomes

The ecological characterisation report, a desktop review of ecological data, has been used to describe the components, processes and functions that make up each of the case study sites. A range of species and assemblages that occur at the case study sites, along with watering requirements, have been documented. This report has used the Ramsar methodology as a basis. The research team has noted that there is not much data on the Weilmoringle area, but the Committee are comfortable with the ecological regour of the report. The Committee have also requested a greater emphasis on cultural frameworks and associations.

Monitoring frameworks have been developed for each of the case study sites. Appropriate indicators will be selected and described, as the aspirations and objectives for the communities at each site are refined. It is intended that the monitoring frameworks can be adapted to other sites in the future.


Component Five

Recommend policy, legal and institutional changes that will enable the implementation of cultural flows for the economic, social and cultural benefit of Indigenous communities.

The scope and expectations for Component Five are currently being developed and discussed.


Component Six

Build the capacity of Indigenous communities to articulate their water needs and advocate for cultural water allocations for the economic, social and cultural benefit of Indigenous communities.

Representatives from MLDRIN and NBAN are still considering how to best deliver this component of the project. Capacity building activities are best left until the later stages of the project.


Component Seven

Inform Indigenous communities of the process and activities related to the research program (Communication)

At this stage of the project, communications are focussed primarily on keeping nation groups and project partners informed. A wider understanding and support for cultural flows is also encouraged. 


Component Eight

Support the Research Committee in its objectives, and provide executive and administrative assistance (Secretariat/Research Coordinator)

Since June 2016, the focus of the Research Manager has been to support the effective delivery of research components 2 and 3.