Incentives and constraints to Indigenous engagement in water management

Hannah Escott (Lead / Corresponding author), Sara Beavis, Alison Reeves

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    Until very recently, water policy and management has not included Indigenous knowledge, despite its relevance to sustainability. However, the Australian government, through the National Water Commission (NWC), started to recognise that effective and sustainable water management can be enhanced by integrating scientific and traditional knowledge, by encouraging Indigenous engagement. The National Water Commission's 2009 biennial assessments found that most jurisdictions in Australia did not have in place effective Indigenous engagement in water management. In 2012 the First Peoples' Water Engagement Council found this was still the case. This paper investigates what inhibits the process of knowledge sharing for water management and uses a case study from the Macleay River catchment in northern New South Wales to elucidate both the salient constraints and incentives on Indigenous engagement in water resources management. Primary data were sourced via 18 semi-structured interviews with key members of the Kempsey Shire community, researchers and relevant people working in water governance. The study found several constraints including socio-economic limitations, lack of capacity to engage, restrictions through various levels of engagement, how culturally appropriate engagement practices are, and ineffective leadership from all tiers of government. Submissions to the Standing Committee on Environment and Communications Inquiry into the National Water Commission (Abolition) Bill 2014 also identified these constraints. These limitations interact and cannot be considered separately. The incentives to engagement included: the value of Indigenous knowledge for sustainable water management; participants' incentives as genuine interest in water; a desire to use and value cultural insights; and, opportunities for improved educational and employment outcomes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)382-393
    Number of pages12
    JournalLand Use Policy
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


    • Engagement
    • Indigenous knowledge
    • National Water Initiative
    • Public participation
    • Water resources management

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Forestry
    • Nature and Landscape Conservation
    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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