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EcoGeneration: Harnessing the collective power of Indigenous communities

In Australia, the accelerated clean energy revolution is moving at cyclonic pace, but as the nation navigates endless policy and regulatory strata, it is imperative no communities get left behind.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, there is tremendous opportunity to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change. However, there are cultural sensitivities that need to be respected as First Nations peoples have every right and responsibility to care for country on which they inhabit.

The First Nations Clean Energy Network has its work cut out when it comes to policy reform given the complex nature of Australia’s renewable energy regulatory framework.

“The regulatory arrangements for renewables are so haphazard and ad hoc,” says Karrina Nolan. “Things are different in all the jurisdictions, but we are doing a First Nations clean energy strategy and co-designing it with the Federal Government.

“That involves looking at the various jurisdictions and understanding what could be reformed. It shouldn’t matter if you live in social housing – you can still put solar on your roof or get a battery, get a rebate for it, whether you own the asset or not. Those obstacles are not insurmountable.

“Transmission is a pretty big issue, ensuring it is done in a way that doesn’t crisscross the cultural landscape, or be in places it shouldn’t be. Offshore wind and cultural and sea rights is another issue.

“There are financial inequities in the way our communities are living, and we are trying to address that. But there is genuine goodwill and commitment from government and industry that we can do things differently. Our people have shown a lot of trust, and this is an opportunity to reset relationships with how medium-scale and large-scale industry has been done on country.

“There is still a long way to go and a lot of projects in the pipeline so we have to move quickly. If the government wants to not dig up any more fossil fuels, they need to move at pace, but it needs to be with justice at the forefront.”