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Incorporating Indigenous perspectives for sustainable water management

A lack of understanding about how Indigenous Australians value water has led to a lack of justice in decision-making.

This is an issue Professor Quentin Grafton, Director of the Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy at the Australian National University’s (ANU) Crawford School hopes to help correct.  

Grafton was recently named an Australian Laureate Fellow for a project he said aims to rethink how water is valued, used and governed in Australia.

He was awarded $3.3 million by the Australian Research Council for a 5-year study to better understand the relationship First Nations people have with water, and to develop a Water Justice Hub to educate people about traditional water knowledge. 

Grafton said recognising water’s economic, environmental and socio-cultural value, including the values of Indigenous Australians, was vital for creating a sustainable future.

Professor Quentin Grafton.

“Water is life: for people, our communities, our environment, our economy and our nation,” he said.

“So properly valuing water, and reallocating it when necessary, is crucial to avoid catastrophic costs and recovery after droughts, and to ensure a sustainable water future for all Australians.”

Australian Laureate Fellowships are awarded each year, providing successful applicants with project funding as well as a salary supplement and salary-related support. 

This year, 17 projects shared $53.8 million in funding, including $2.9 million for ANU plant  scientist Barry Pogson, who will research higher yielding and more resilient ‘smart plants’. 

Professor David Bellwood from James Cook University also received funding, which he will use to identify the key ecosystem functions needed to sustain coral reefs and determine their susceptibility to disturbance; while the University of Queensland’s Professor Lianzhou Wang will research next-generation materials that harness solar energy, producing fuels and chemicals from water and carbon dioxide.

For a full list of 2019 Australian Laureate Fellows, click here.