Working together for better water in the bush

04 July 2023

People from across Australia came together in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) last week to share, listen and work together to improve access to safe and reliable water in First Nations remote communities, homelands and outstations.

The ‘working together for better water in the bush’ forum was held from Tuesday 27 to Thursday 29 June at the Desert Knowledge Precinct on Arrernte Country.

The forum was delivered by Australian Government through the National Water Grid Authority, in partnership with the Goyder Institute for Water Research and Desert Knowledge Australia.

Joint collaboration

First Nations communities, Land Councils, local government organisations, water and health service providers and government agencies came together to build a shared understanding and identify challenges, solutions and enabling actions to improve water security in remote communities.

The nationally focused forum saw stories from Country heard and relationships built, and the diverse group of delegates meant genuine solutions, actions and pathways for outcomes were discussed openly.

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.

Culturally safe knowledge-sharing workshops were held across the 3 days which empowered First Nations representatives to share their lived experiences and have their voices heard.

The workshops enabled First Nations community members to participate in shaping actions that involve and affect their health, wellbeing, culture and future generations.

Next steps

The Goyder Institute is synthesising the forum outcomes to support the National Water Grid Authority’s work to improve water access and quality within remote communities.

Outcomes will provide jointly developed actions to accelerate progress on providing secure drinking water for communities, with responsibility for action shared across all attendees. Attendees recognised that successful action relies on continuing to work together, including open communication across sectors, and listening and learning both ways.

Many of the actions identified through the forum will provide a pathway for responsible investment in water infrastructure projects through the Australian Government’s $150 million commitment to deliver crucial water security projects in regional and remote First Nations communities.

The National Water Grid welcomes proposals for funding from state and territory governments. More information about the funding requirements is available in the National Water Grid Investment Framework.  


The National Water Grid and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is celebrating NAIDOC Week from 2-9 July 2023, with the 2023 theme ‘For Our Elders’.

The ‘working together for better water in the bush’ forum was an important occasion to recognise Elders and community members, and their essential role in sharing knowledge and experiences for better decision-making and program outcomes. The wisdom and guidance that was generously shared will continue to shape our next steps.

Individuals sitting around a table with images and writing in the background.
Forum attendees engaged in a range of discussions over the three days, which resulted in genuine solutions, actions and pathways for outcomes to be identified.