Indigenous people essential in energy boom

Article for Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Leaders are pushing for Indigenous people to be at the heart of Australia’s renewable energy boom, as community, industry and authorities come together to help inform the future of the sector.

Indigenous peoples’ estate is under siege with the expectation their involvement ends in handing over their land for big development projects, National Native Council chair Kado Muir said.

“This is an old and outdated way of thinking.

“We want to be active participants in the economy of renewable energy, as owners of projects, technology and power distribution into markets.”

The First Nations Clean Energy Network, which brings together community, government and industry to shape renewables’ future, will convene from Thursday for a two-day symposium in Melbourne.

The network is tipped to ensure Indigenous people play a central role in clean energy and benefit from the opportunities it creates.

First Nations people will be “essential” to the country’s clean energy transition, Federal Assistant Climate Change and Energy Minister Jenny McAllister said.

The network will help reform policy, design projects and ensure Indigenous people are at the heart of the renewables boom, Original Power executive director Karrina Nolan said.

“If done well, clean energy will provide a big boost to our communities,” she said.

“We have an opportunity to do development right this time, protecting country and sacred sites while delivering reliable power, jobs and economic opportunity for our communities.”

Better engagement with Indigenous peoples should be a win-win, network steering group member Chris Croker said.

That way, they could help unlock new energy investments, and use renewables to address any energy security issues.

Among topics on the symposium’s agenda will be best practice principles for industry to promote strong, productive relationships with Indigenous communities, and community-owned renewable projects.

Indigenous Australians living in remote, shabby housing with unstable electricity connections in the Northern Territory’s extreme heat are enduring life-threatening conditions, according to a research paper published in the Medical Journal last month.

Excessive heat, poor housing, energy insecurity and chronic disease have reached critical levels and a multi-sector response is needed to avert catastrophe, Australian National University researcher Simon Quilty said.

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