Water Theft Maleficence in Australia


The United Nations has repeatedly identified that freshwater security is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity, and that water theft is a global problem exacerbating human conflict, denying human rights and accelerating environmental despoliation (UN 2019; UN Water 2020). Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent where water security is seriously threatened and constantly monitored by federal, state and local authorities. The devastating 2019-2020 bushfires across Australia serve as a stark reminder of the nation’s vulnerabilities to drought and the imperatives of water security and sustainability. Whilst some threats are undoubtedly climate induced, it is widely reported the ‘theft’ of water is playing an increasingly significant role in compromising Australia’s water security. This article provides a critical overview of the contemporary significance of water theft and its governance. It interrogates official documents of government inquiries, examines court proceedings, and provides a green criminological perspective on future policy, practice and prevention.

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Published: 2021-03-01
Pages:83 to 97
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How to Cite
Baird, A., Walters, R. and White, R. (2021) “Water Theft Maleficence in Australia”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 10(1), pp. 83-97. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v10i1.1604.

Author Biographies

Deakin University

I am PhD student in Criminology at Deakin Unviersity, Melbourne. My main research interests include green criminology, environmental crime, climate change criminology and environmetnal rights, activism and radicalism. I am a strong advocate for environmental protection and conservation, and enjoy exploring the intricate and complex dimensions of environmenta harm from a criminological approach. 

Deakin University

Reece Walters joined Deakin in November 2018. He has previously held academic appointments at QUT, The Open University, University of Stirling, Victoria University of Wellington and LaTrobe University. His areas of research interest and expertise include Green and Southern Criminology, Crimes of the Powerful, and the Sociology of Criminological Knowledge.He is particularly interested in the ways in which corporations and governments exploit and compromise the ‘essentials of life’, namely air, food and water for power and profit.

University of Tasmania

Rob White is Distinguished Professor of Criminology at the University of Tasmania, Australia. He has written widely in the areas of green criminology, juvenile justice and eco-justice.