Talks held for treaty between almost 50 Indigenous nations in the Murray-Darling Basin

A treaty between the nations of the Murray-Darling Basin could help in the lobbying for Indigenous rights to water. (Picture: Melissa Macgill)

Sofie Wainwright ABC Broken Hill 12 August 2016

Representatives from almost 50 Indigenous nations across the Murray-Darling Basin have begun talks to develop a treaty.

The idea was raised at a water summit at Canberra this week, involving two peak Aboriginal bodies representing the 46 groups on water management.

The treaty would formalise the alliances between each of the nations, which are members of Murray Lower Darling Basin Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) and Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN).

The hope is a treaty would create economic opportunities, assist the sharing of resources and give the groups a united voice on Indigenous rights issues.

Fred Hooper
NBAN chairman Fred Hooper

NBAN chairman Fred Hooper said it would be an unprecedented step.

"If we are successful in the development of a treaty between the 46 nations, it will be groundbreaking," Mr Hooper said.

"It will be the first time that this would have happened in Australia, and it will be a step forward in this whole historic dispossession.

"A treaty between ourselves is the first step in a treaty for the rest of the country."

Stronger voice on water rights

Mr Hooper said forming a treaty between the nations of the Murray-Darling Basin would also improve their ability to lobby for Indigenous rights to water.

"It's about time now that the Commonwealth and the states recognise that we are a real player in this water industry," Mr Hooper said.

"It's not just the irrigators and the environmentalists, they have to include the First Nations people in everything that they do.

"All of the nations within the Murray-Darling Basin are river people, so we have to look after our river, we have to look after mother earth."

Delegates will discuss the idea with their communities so it can be endorsed before a final decision is made.

Mr Hooper said a committee was created to draft a document to be voted on at the next gathering in early 2017.

Murray Darling Basin