First Nations gifts a reminder of the need for action to deliver better water for the bush

19 July 2023

Following the recent ‘Working together for better water in the bush’ forum, our officials accepted 3 very important gifts from central Australian community members.

Thanks to the efforts of Marie Ellis, an Arrernte kwertengerle (custodian), our Minister and departmental Executive were recently presented with these gifts, a coolamon, clapsticks and a necklace.

The symbolic gifts serve as a powerful reminder to us all about the need for urgent action to support safe water in First Nations communities.

Each item has a significant meaning:

  • The coolamon is traditionally used for scooping out sand when digging into water sources (soakages) or for carrying water or babies, symbolising a link to both water and the next generation. The coolamon was filled with messages from forum attendees that reinforce the messages heard at the forum
  • The clapsticks are to help the messages from the forum to be heard and listened to
  • The necklace is a circle, symbolising connectedness to land and connections between people.

Forum recap

The ‘Working together for better water in the bush’ forum in late June brought together people from across Australia to Mparntwe (Alice Springs) to share, listen and work together. The goal was to improve access to safe and reliable water in First Nations remote communities, homelands and outstations.

The forum featured:

  • a panel discussion to hear directly from community delegates on ‘what does better drinking water look like and what does it mean for bush communities?’
  • several workshop sessions jointly identifying challenges, solutions, actions, information needs and priorities for better water in the bush
  • presentations from each state and territory government on the current state of play and future plans for remote water services
  • a presentation from Eric Vanweydeveld and Adam Lovell, providing an overview of the Water Services Association of Australia ‘Closing the Water for People and Communities Gap’ report and case studies from communities.

Outcomes report on the way

An outcomes report is being finalised to support our work to improve water access and quality within remote communities.

The report will provide jointly developed actions to accelerate progress on providing secure drinking water for communities. Responsibility for these actions will be shared across all attendees.

Stay tuned, as we’ll share the outcomes report highlights here on our website when its finalised.

Find out more

Read more about the forum Working together for better water in the bush.

A group of people standing outside with the 3 people in the front holding a coolamon (wooden carrying vessel)
A coolamon, clapsticks and a necklace were gifted to officials to reinforce the urgent need for action to support safe water in First Nations communities.