With UN climate talks over and Australia’s climate plans relying on the rapid growth of large scale clean energy projects, the First Nations Clean Energy Network will ensure the transition occurs in partnership with First Nations communities, sharing its jobs and economic benefits, protecting sacred sites and respecting native title.
The Network will support First Nations communities and business enterprises to manage clean energy projects, from small community projects to large-scale, export focussed initiatives.
Launch partners include the National Native Title Council, Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation, ACTU, ETU and MUA, Smart Energy Council, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at ANU, Clean Energy Council, Renewable Energy Alliance, Impact Investment Partners, Community Power Agency, Lowitja Institute, Climate Council, and many others.
A key initiator of the Network, Executive Director of Original Power, Karrina Nolan, says, "The Network will ensure First Nations people are key players in Australia’s clean energy revolution.
"We’re ready to partner with governments and industry to develop clean energy projects that will deliver benefits for all Australians.
"Indigenous land title is now recognised over more than half the Australian continent, with rich renewable energy resources including sun and wind power. As demand drives new renewable energy zones, our consent will be more critical than ever.
"We’ll provide the networks, training and resources so we sit powerfully at the table and negotiate just benefits for our communities, while helping to address climate change.
“The Network will support local First Nations communities experiencing extreme temperatures and expensive, unreliable power, to install clean energy projects.”
Australia's first Indigenous silk and Network Steering Group member, Tony McAvoy SC says, “Not only is Australia failing to pull its weight internationally, but it is failing to ensure that the renewables boom is regulated in a manner that protects First Nations rights and incentivises First Nations' participation.
“Renewable energy is a real alternative to fossil fuels and can be compatible with First Nations' views. However, if we are not at the table as owners, experts and spiritual custodians of the landscape the renewables explosion will be yet another action done 'to' rather that 'with' us”.
Senior Warumungu traditional owner from Tennant Creek, Norman Jupurrurla Frank, who recently co-authored research into energy insecurity and Indigenous health and spearheaded a ground-breaking demonstration project integrating rooftop solar with pre-payment meters in town camps says, “For too long, our communities have been forced to rely on dirty, expensive and unreliable power that is undermining our people’s health and wellbeing.
“Clean energy is the medicine that our people need. I dream of having solar on every house in town. We can get our people trained up to bring cheap energy from the sun, which unlike diesel or gas, will never run out and won’t hurt our country.”
MUA National Indigenous Officer, author and Network Steering Group member, Thomas Mayor says, “Forward planning is critical so First Nations workers have the skills, training and opportunity to take part in the thriving, clean energy industry.
“First Nations communities will be ignored if we don’t get organised. This network will be crucial to our people being heard about employment, training and participation in the clean energy industry.”
Kane Thornton, Chief Executive of the Clean Energy Council, the peak body for the clean energy industry in Australia, says, “The clean energy industry wants to put its best foot forward through genuine collaboration with First Nations communities, respecting the Indigenous Estate, sharing the benefits of clean energy through sustainable and equitable practice and protecting an ancient culture. This Network will be invaluable in achieving this mission.”
The First Nations Clean Energy Network will pursue three key pillars:
Community: Enable communities to drive the development of clean energy projects that provide direct benefits to residents through reduced household energy costs and more reliable energy, with its associated health and social benefits.
Industry Partnerships: Establish an innovation hub, promoting the implementation of best practice principles that underpin agreements for land use and benefit sharing between First Nations groups, companies and investors, while building capacity through training and employment for First Nations people to participate in the renewable energy sector.
Policy reform: Advocate to lift significant federal and state regulatory barriers to renewable energy development and stoke government investment in technology, innovation and infrastructure.