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From Dispossession to Compensation: a political ecology of the Ord Final Agreement as a partial success story for Indigenous traditional owners

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The recent digging of a new channel for water delivery to expand irrigation in the Ord provides a good opportunity for unearthing the native title agreement that allows for intensification of agriculture there. Initial irrigation development in this north-eastern Australian catchment did not include recognition of, consultation with, or distribution of benefits to Indigenous people impacted by dam creation and land flooding. Forming agreement between those affected by previous dispossessions, and associated accumulation of wealth via mining and irrigation, with those initiating such activities was an important and challenging process. The Ord Final Agreement (OFA), formalised in 2006, came from negotiations between Miriuwung and Gajerrong traditional owners and government and private interests. Through qualitative research, I dissect the context and content of the OFA to identify the strengths and weaknesses therein. While the agreement does allow for co-management of significant land- and waterscapes, it does not provide for Indigenous water rights, showing one instance of loose ends and missing links within the Ord.

Keywords: Indigenous people; Indigenous water rights; Ord Final Agreement; co-management; political ecology

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Sydney, Australia

Publication date: December 1, 2012

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