The First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance is working for legislative reforms that entrench First Nations Peoples as key decision-makers and prioritise the protection of cultural heritage.
The Alliance is working in partnership with the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water to co-design reforms.
A particular focus is the the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.
Achieving necessary integrity and accountability in the Act means more than increasing transparency; it requires enshrining the following set of human rights — which Australia has signed on to — in Australia’s environment laws:
- The right to give or withhold free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).
- The right to know — to access information that authorities hold.
- The right to participate — to have a genuine say in decision-making.
- The right to challenge — to seek legal remedy if decisions are made illegally or not in the public interest.
These rights are interdependent and indivisible: enshrining only one or two is not enough.
In the meantime, investors and financiers will need to ensure they have robust human rights due diligence and related governance and risk management processes in place to address the current gap in legislative requirements. To not do so significantly increases project risk, as Rio Tinto knows.
A sign-on letter backed by 55 signatories, including the First Nations Clean Energy Network, has been sent to the Federal Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek calling for urgent reform.
Thanks for the photo Marek Piwnicki