With Australia’s renewables boom well underway, the First Nations Clean Energy Network, which aims to make sure First Nations communities share in the benefits of clean energy projects, is launching two guides to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to negotiate the best outcomes for their communities.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Best Practice Principles for Clean Energy Projects - The 10 principles, designed for the clean energy industry, government and communities, cover such things as ensuring projects provide economic and social benefits, mutual respect, cultural and environmental considerations and employment opportunities.
- Clean Energy Negotiations Guide for First Nations - To help communities negotiate mid to large scale developments on country, or assist those wanting to initiate their own clean energy projects. Covers all aspects of negotiating, from joining or opposing a project to getting resources and advice, so there are fair outcomes for all.
Yorta Yorta woman Karrina Nolan, Executive Director of Original Power and Network Steering Group member said, “With the clean energy industry now constructing medium to large scale projects on our land, these guides will help communities to skill up and share in the benefits, while ensuring there are strong measures in place to protect land, water and sacred sites.
“First Nations communities have the right to self-determine what happens on their country and by providing principled and practical advice they can ensure clean energy projects are designed to provide meaningful jobs, economic benefits and reliable, clean energy”.
Luritja man Chris Croker, Managing Director, Impact Investment Partners and Network Steering Group member said, "Many remote communities still need a secure energy supply and renewables are key to address this inequity and get better health, education and economic outcomes. Indigenous communities overseas are making great strides from the development of clean energy projects on their land, owning a stake or initiating their own, and it will happen here too.
“We have the opportunity to do projects right this time - working together cooperatively, fairly and respectfully in our joint mission to power the nation. These guides set the gold standard and will help everyone involved, including the clean energy industry itself and governments responsible for driving and regulating them.”
Kane Thornton, Chief Executive of the Clean Energy Council, peak body for Australia’s clean energy industry, said, “The clean energy industry is determined to really lift the standard when it comes to working with First Nations communities. These guides provide a wonderful steer for how to do this and we’ll all reap the benefits in terms of strong, respectful relationships and cheaper, more reliable energy.”
Ngadju elder, native title holder and Founder of Ngadju Conservation Aboriginal Corporation in WA, Les Schultz said, “We’ll all be better off with these guides in our back pocket.
“We’ve been involved in negotiations to develop a green hydrogen project on Mirning Country. What we’ve found is that you need to get expert advice quickly, be clear on community priorities and know what you want to achieve. Key ingredients are getting the right advice, respect between parties, strong communication and ongoing consultation.”
Karrina Nolan, Executive Director, Original Power and co-founder of the First Nations Clean Energy Network (launched November 2021). A descendant of the Yorta Yorta people, Karrina is an experienced manager of complex programs in Aboriginal communities. Most recently, Karrina has been building the capacity for self-determination in the context of climate change and clean energy. She dedicated an Atlantic Fellowship to determining how to best build clean energy projects by and for First Nations people.
Chris Croker, Managing Director, Impact Investment Partners and First Nations Clean Energy Network Steering Group. Chris is a descendant of the Luritja people of the Central Desert. A mining engineer, he has led several community renewable energy projects in and around Central Australia. Chris leads Impact Investment Partners which leverages capital from ethical investors to assist Indigenous communities to improve their essential services assets such as electricity and health infrastructure. They are currently supporting the development of the Santa Teresa solar microgrid project, South of Alice Springs, and the Borroloola solar microgrid project in the NT.
Les Schultz - Ngadju elder WA, native title holder, and Founder of Ngadju Conservation Aboriginal Corporation in WA. Les is involved in a negotiation process to develop a green hydrogen project on Mirning Country, Western Green Hydrogen. His country is also the site of another proposed hydrogen project for one of the biggest players in the green energy field, Andrew Forrest, owner of Fortescue Metals Group (FMG). Instrumental in setting up one of the only Indigenous Rural Bush Fire Brigades in Australia, Les also pioneered the Indigenous ranger program in Ngadju country to help keep his country, culture and language strong.
The new Federal Labor government has promised to create jobs, cut power bills and reduce emissions by boosting renewable energy as part of its Powering Australia plan and for Australia to become a renewables exporter to the world.
There is a global renewables transition underway. Over a quarter of Australia’s energy generation now comes from renewables and, despite a lack of significant government investment or an appropriate regulatory environment, Australia is set to surpass its renewable energy target of 50% by 2030.
This is driving a massive shift in Australia’s energy system and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can and should benefit from this revolution, whether from small community-based projects to large scale, export focussed initiatives.
First Nations communities struggle with unreliable and expensive power and the impacts of this are worsening as extreme temperatures increase. The regulatory environment is complex and can frustrate efforts to build energy security.
Many First Nations communities are either proactively considering clean energy or are being asked - via development - to understand and engage with the clean energy industry. We have an opportunity to position First Nations peoples as co-designers and drivers of projects.
First Nations people have substantial native title rights and interests. Indigenous land title is now recognised over more than half the Australian continent, encompassing many of our richest renewable energy resources including sun, wind and waters. With this boom, First Nations’ land and consent will be more critical than ever.
What is the First Nations Clean Energy Network?
Launched in November 2021, the network is led by a high profile Steering Group and backed by supporters from First Nations organisations, land councils, industry groups, academics, technical and legal experts and unions. The network is pursuing three key pillars of work essential to ensuring First Nations people benefit from Australia’s clean energy boom:
Community: Enable communities to drive the development of clean energy projects that provide direct benefits to residents through cheaper and more reliable energy.
Industry Partnerships: Promote the development and implementation of best practice principles to underpin agreements for land use and benefit sharing between First Nations communities, 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 federal and state regulatory barriers to renewable energy development and put in place policies and programs to unlock the opportunities.
In August 2022, Federal, State and Territory Energy Ministers committed to co-design a new strategy which will see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people share in the benefits of the renewables revolution.
Network partners include the National Native Title Council, Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation, Smart Energy Council, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at ANU, Clean Energy Council, Renewable Energy Alliance, ACTU, ETU and MUA, Impact Investment Partners, Community Power Agency, Lowitja Institute, Climate Council, and many others.