The Federal Government is allocating $150 million to delivering crucial water security projects in regional and remote First Nations communities, as part of the Closing the Gap strategy.
The targeted funding will be delivered across four years through the National Water Grid Fund (NWGF) to support First Nations water infrastructure and provide safe and reliable water for remote and regional Indigenous communities.
This announcement comes as part of the Federal Government’s release of the Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, and is a clear, concrete commitment towards improving life outcomes for First Nations peoples.
Specifically, this investment will deliver on progress towards Closing the Gap Outcome 9b by improving essential town water supplies to support liveability in First Nations communities.
Investing in water infrastructure that provides safe, secure and reliable water has significant health, wellbeing and economic outcomes for First Nations people – also contributing to Closing the Gap outcomes 1 and 8.
Federal Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, said, “In a country like Australia it is shocking that there are still communities who don’t have a clean and reliable source of drinking water. Many of these communities are remote, First Nations communities.
“There are towns that are unable to run dialysis machines as there is not enough clean and safe water. There are communities where the heavy metals and minerals in the water are at such concentrations that the water cannot be consumed safely. We want to start to change that with this investment.”
The Federal Government is working with state and territory governments and key stakeholders to identify priority projects in First Nations communities across Australia and will announce projects as and when they are ready to be funded, so that genuine consultation can take place.
Proposals for funding through the National Water Grid Fund must be brought forward by state and territory governments and are considered on merit against the eligibility criteria outlined in the National Water Grid Investment Framework.
As part of project development, the Federal Government requires engagement with impacted First Nations communities so that their views, aspirations and priorities for their own communities are known.
The Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) has welcomed the announcement.
WSAA estimates that an investment of $2.2 billion is needed to bring drinking water in line with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, and is pleased to see initial steps towards improving water supplies for these communities.
WSAA has continued to engage with the Government since the release of the WSAA Closing the water for people and communities gap report in November 2022.
WSSA said, “We will continue to engage with the Australian Government as it works with state and territory governments and key stakeholders to identify priority projects. As part of project development, engagement with impacted First Nations communities is required to ensure their views, aspirations and priorities for their own communities are known.”