There has been little detail about how mob living on country might be able to access support under the new measures.
Naveen Razik

7 Nov 2019 - 6:20 PM  UPDATED 7 Nov 2019 - 6:20 PM

Cheap loans for farmers and multi-million dollar grants to local councils are among a number of drought measures announced by the Federal Government, but there was little detail on how drought-affected Indigenous communities living on country would be able to access support. 

The new $1 billion strategy is aimed at providing support to struggling farmers and financial stimulus for rural and regional communities.

“As every month has passed, we have listened, we have learned and we have continued to step up what we have been doing in our response to the drought,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters.

“Our responsibility is to keep farmers on their properties and get them through this drought,” Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said.

“That's what we're doing today, giving them hope in sustaining their operations.”

Despite making a billion-dollar commitment to helping regional Australians affected by drought, the Government is yet to elaborate on how indigenous communities who are living on country would be able to access financial support.

"We're hearing that some of the mob are leaving their customary lands and the places their mobs have been on for thousands of generations, they got to pack up and leave because the water's run out," said Bradley Moggeridge, a Kamilaroi water scientist at the University of Canberra.

“There’s no long-term solution involved in these decisions and it’s going to have no benefit for Aboriginal people living in those parts of the rivers either.”

“To be honest I think it’s a band-aid solution, it’s very reactive.”

Mr Moggeridge called for governments to draw on the knowledge Indigenous Australians have of the country's rivers and waters, built over many generations.

"We need to manage our rivers better because based on traditional knowledge water should be there," he told NITV News.

"I think Indigenous knowledge has so much to offer Western science but unfortunately a lot of our knowledge has gone to the grave."

"We've got to start listening to the old people, but we've also going to enter the space of science as well."

Paakantyi Elder Badger Bates witnessed the devastating cultural impact drought can have on his community of Willcannia in the Murray-Darling Basin.

“If they don’t let the Barka (Darling River) flow I got no culture, I die with it,” he told NITV News.

“The Farmers do need water to grow stuff for us to eat, but the Minister is missing something. They miss it all the time.”

"When are the Ministers going to realise there are communities living among these rivers who are really, really suffering with the farmers?"

'There's two things I can hear: water and profit': Aboriginal man slams government's approach to water resources
A Murawari Budjiti man delivers a raw and emotional message to the government, as both farmers and Aboriginal leaders take aim at the federal Minister for Water Resources and Drought.

The government's drought strategy comes alongside the release of a commissioned drought review report, which has handed to cabinet in April. 

The government will tweak the terms of drought loans offered by the Regional Investment Corporation, introducing a two-year interest-free period for farmers.

Concessional loans of up to $500,000 will also be offered to small businesses like harvesters, shearers, livestock transporters and stations.

Drought towns feeling the impact from their backup water supply
These rural towns only have access to water that could lead to health problems, unless they spend their hard-earnings on bottled water.

The Building Better Regions fund will also hold a special round of grants with up to $10 million per project available to local councils.

They’ll also be eligible for a share of almost $139 million to upgrade and maintain local roads.

The agriculture minister also announced an agreement had been reached between the South Australian government and the federal government to pump 100 Gigalitres of water along the Murray River.

The water, to be provided by the state’s existing desalination plant will be provided to farmers to grow fodder, silage and pasture at a discount rate.