For world leaders heading to Glasgow for the November Climate Summit (GOP26) it has been described as the ‘last chance to save the planet’. For Australia, utilising 40,000 plus years of continuous Caring for Country, its First Nations people can offer a competitive advantage.
First Nations hold native title or land rights over 49% of the land mass of Australia, and 60% of northern Australia. This covers some of the best land in the world for industrial-scale wind and solar farms, where the majority of these developments are being proposed. First Nations also contribute to carbon reduction through ‘cool-burning’ cultural practices and sequestration by sustainable land management. Over time, the Indigenous estate will potentially increase to 65% – an estate that has been held since time immemorial.
The description of Caring for Country as ‘Indigenous people’s land and sea management’ logically draws attention to the environmental and landscape management outcomes. This leads to benefits for the social, political, cultural, economic, and physical and emotional wellbeing of First Nations people, shared with the wider community to facilitate a better environment.
As acknowledged in the Juukan Gorge Report – A Way Forward, First Nations’ potential must be unlocked and supported by building the capability of the institutions that represent Native Title holders and Traditional Owners at a grass roots level, namely through the Prescribed Body Corporates (PBCs).
For this to happen effectively, funding revenue needs to come from Australian governments and proponents negotiating with PBCs. If the government is talking about Regional Future Funds – it needs to also talk about a First Nations Future Fund.
In support of the PBCs maintaining their capabilities, the NNTC been exploring sustainable options in a new funding model, that moves purposefully away from the current short-term project funding approach towards a more structural, ongoing arrangement.
This self-funding model has been designed to underwrite the mandatory compliance functions of PBCs that will exist in perpetuity. As things stand, most PBCs struggle to fulfil their basic obligations under The Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (CATSI) Act for want of adequate funds.
“Fundamentally, PBCs require a stream of operational revenue in perpetuity, given the permanence of their legal rights to native title and obligations under the NTA and the CATSI Act” says National Native Title CEO Jamie Lowe.
“Without a solid governance foundation and stable operational capabilities that such statutory compliance requires, the task of moving to more opportunistic and aspirational phases of native title development (in terms of the leveraging of rights and future planning for nation-rebuilding and prosperity), is substantially impeded and compromised from the outset.”
The NNTC and its members have noted, with the current debate over Glasgow GOP 26 and reducing emissions, it appears First Nations people have been left on the sidelines again.
“Partnering with First Nations is key to healing and transforming a modern Australia in an evolving, competitive world that’s focussed on the effects of climate change. We are an important part of the solution and should not, will not, be sidelined.” states Mr Lowe.
“The Federal Nationals cannot convey to the Australian public that miners and pastoralists are the only constituents in regions, as they argue for ‘compensation’ for zero emissions by 2050. I haven’t heard any mention of First Nations in this debate and what we stand to ‘lose’ or ‘benefit’ from an economy in transition in regional/remote Australia.” he says.
With a looming election, the NNTC is seeking a clear strategy on the specific funding issue that draws out the critical role First Nations people and appropriately funded PBCs have in protecting cultural heritage, and their contribution to economy transformation and policy solutions around Voice, Treaty and Closing the Gap.
“This is our value proposition to growing a mature Australia for the benefit of everyone” offers Mr Lowe.
In short, Australia cannot afford to continually make the same environmental mistakes without the voice of its First Nations Peoples and without embedding Indigenous knowledge into the government sphere.
The cost is simply too great.
For all media enquiries please contact Sarah Easson,
Media Consultant, National Native Title Council
M: 0419 228 642 E: firstname.lastname@example.org