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1 November 2021

Aboriginal and Torres Strait delegates to COP26 in Glasgow urge the Australian Government to prioritise impacts on their communities.

When it comes to real climate action, if the Australian Government wants to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement and limit global warming to 1.5℃ this century, what is required is urgent action taken this decade and the government listening to First Nations People’s knowledge and wisdom that 60,000 plus continuous years of living offers.

Loose language is no longer an option for the Indigenous Peoples’ Organisation of Australia who are demanding ambitious action on environmental mismanagement directly impacting First Nation communities, and the need to prioritise the perspectives of Indigenous peoples when it comes to climate solutions.

For their voice to be clear, the IPO, a national coalition of 300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations, community organisations and individuals from across Australia, developed a detailed Report of their Priorities and raised funds to send a strong delegation to the COP26.

This delegation is led by ANU researcher and Wiradjuri Nyemba woman Dr Virginia Marshall, a national expert on Climate Change, National Water Management and Native Title.

“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, climate change has a direct detrimental and inequitable impact,” says Dr Marshall.

"The climate crisis disproportionately threatens the human rights of Indigenous people, including our rights to health, water, food, housing, self-determination, and to life itself.”

In addition to representing the IPO as an Executive Member, Dr Marshall is familiar with the scientific and technical requirements to prevent climate change beyond 1.5 degrees. She is also attended as an Indigenous Pacific Representative to the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP) Facilitative Working Group, a formal process under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Dr Marshall is also joined by IPO Executive Member Pastor Ray Minniecon, a passionate community advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, who has a deep knowledge of the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and of the ancestral wisdom that First Nations can share on how to live sustainably within Australia’s living country and waterways.

“These issues and others we face, are all interlinked” states Pastor Minniecon, “and are directly related to the need for Self-Determination, as confirmed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

“We need to share our knowledge to meet this existential threat” he continues, “which requires a Makarrata Commission to develop a treaty and enable real decision making, so we can all move forward in partnership to take the necessary action to secure our shared futures.”

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Priorities Report will be used to inform their participation at COP26 and forwarded to the Australian Government and Opposition. It includes definitive measures such as cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 75% by 2030 and 100% by 2035, plus a commitment to going 100% renewables in Australia in the next 10 years.

Among other demands, there will be a call to abolish all fracking and coal seam gas extraction and a call to reverse policies that foster the sale and commodification of river waters on the finance market, to ensure water access to Aboriginal communities and continuous environmental flows.

Legislative priorities include calling for a review of Cultural Heritage Legislation (Federal and State) to incorporate Traditional Owner decision making, with a right to veto the mining of sacred sites. and for the government to legislate the requirement for ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ of Traditional Owners for all mining and exploration, with the costs of and payment for meeting paid to Traditional Owners.

The IPO is also thrilled to support the voice of Tishiko King, a youth delegate from the Torres Strait, given the critical threat of rising sea levels to those low-lying Islands.

She is also working with a group of Torres Strait Islanders who are taking legal action against the Australian Government with a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee, for Australia’s breaching of their rights to culture and life by failing to adequately address climate change.

The full copy of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Priorities Report is available for download here:

View the Heal Country Heal Climate Video Clip here


For further information:

Cathy Eatock e: [email protected]