The research will be guided by the following principles:

Rights, responsibilities and ownership

This research will always be cognisant of the fact that the Aboriginal organisations consider this research program is about their inherent rights as Traditional Owners and Nations and peoples in accordance with their customs and traditions. This research must always acknowledge that the rights (demanded) are part and parcel of their customary and spiritual responsibilities and obligations. An obligation that is holistic, addressing human, environmental and spiritual elements.

Multidisciplinary research approach

This research requires the integration of a number of scientific fields (e.g. social sciences, economics, human geography, anthropology, hydrology, ecology, etc); therefore a multidisciplinary approach will be taken. It should also incorporate appropriate quantitative and qualitative methodologies from these disciplines, including oral history interviews and other social science approaches.

Applied research for the benefit of Aboriginal people
The research shall be designed and developed for the purpose of identifying and implementing cultural flows for the benefit of Aboriginal people.

Intellectual property

The knowledge of any Aboriginal person involved with or contributing to this research will remain the intellectual property of that person and will be protected at all costs. This is ensured by a signed Intellectual Property agreement between the knowledge holder and the researcher. If any of this information is sought for promoting discussion around cultural flows to a broader audience, the appropriate permission will be sought. Sensitive information will not be used for publication.

Building capacity

The research will help build the capacity of Aboriginal groups in water resource management, governance and research methodologies and tools. The research will also seek to provide reciprocal benefits including the transfer of traditional knowledge and skills back to the people and organisations involved in this research.

Participatory research

Research will follow the approaches of ‘participatory research’ or ‘participatory action research’ set in the context of the strategic priorities of the participating Aboriginal organisations. Aboriginal representatives will collaborate with non-Aboriginal participants in the research design and implementation. The aim is to increase the capacity of Aboriginal organisations to engage in further research as well as incorporate reflexivity (recognising the impact of the researchers on the process). The research process will recognise Aboriginal views, spirituality and connection to country. The research will also assist in developing the pool of early-career Aboriginal researchers focused on cultural flows and natural resource management.

Free prior and informed consent

The concept of free prior and informed consent that is recognised in International Law will underpin all elements of this research. Aboriginal people will have adequate knowledge of the issues, and understand the consequences and outcomes that may result from contributing their cultural knowledge, values and perspectives.


The overall responsibility for directing and designing the research will lie with the National Cultural Flows Planning and Research Committee. Involvement in this committee will help build the capacity of Aboriginal organisations to reinforce existing Aboriginal decision making structures.

Alignment with Australian Government Strategies

The research will align with Australian Government strategies such as ‘Closing the Gap’, the principles of the MDBA’s Indigenous Partnership Program and human rights principles including the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Good Science

The emphasis of this research is on good science; that is, the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence and which respects transparency and accountability.

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