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The Australian model of water governance is considered one of the most effective, efficient and resilient approaches to designing and implementing water governance. In place since the early 1990s, the Australian approach is a hybrid governance system involving collaborative planning of water resources together with market mechanisms and statutory regulation. However, in implementing the model, successive reforms have yet to completely redress the historical exclusion of Aboriginal peoples from water law frameworks, and have struggled to account for the needs of a healthy and sustainable aquatic environment. In this chapter we examine the trajectory of water law and policy reform in Australia, including two of the most recent developments: the push to intensify water development in the northern Australian White Paper and the collaborative planning approach set in the Water for Victoria policy. Our study of the incremental and evolving Australian water law reforms highlights the difficulty of ensuring fairness in the operation of hybrid governance systems for water regulation, and reveals important lessons for international policy-makers embarking on and implementing water reforms in their own jurisdictions. From its inception, strategic planning for innovative water law reform must be supported by meaningful engagement with Indigenous peoples, and embed Indigenous and environmental values and rights in water planning and governance.
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- Lessons from Australian Water Reforms: Indigenous and Environmental Values in Market-Based Water Regulation
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