A major round table discussion on clean energy and First Nations communities will be held in the Pilbara this Monday and Tuesday.
In August 2022 the federal government and all state and territory Energy Ministers committed to co-designing and implementing a First Nations Clean Energy Strategy to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a key role in driving Australia's energy transformation.
Ministers committed to resource community round tables to support the First Nations Clean Energy Network’s three pillars:"community, industry partnerships and policy reform", identifying First Nations Clean Energy Strategy as an opportunity to review laws, regulation and policy, lift barriers and implement regulatory reform, and to facilitate greater government investment in innovation, technology and infrastructure, "so First Nations people can share in and benefit from the renewable energy boom".
Yorta Yorta woman and First Nations Clean Energy Network member Karrina Nolan said the two-day round table is "the first of many", and will will help outline a clean energy and investment vision by communities in and around the Pilbara.
“It is the Network’s aim to to ensure First Nations people are resourced to participate in and socially and economically benefit from the clean energy transition," she said.
“The roundtable brings people together to talk about what’s working and what’s not.
“Together, we will come up with recommendations for actions, policies and programs that Federal and State Governments should implement.”
Many First Nations communities struggle with unreliable and expensive power, a situation becoming more dire as costs of living rise.
First Nations Clean Energy Network member, Luritja man Chris Croker, comes from the central desert and says high electricity prices, low availability of solar and batteries, access to financing and training, employment and business opportunities, and embedding negotiating opportunities with investors, government and developers, are some of the issues likely to be tackled at the round table.
“People have a chequered history with mining projects and the extractive industries on their land and this is a chance to reset that," he said.
Ms Nolan agrees said it is a prime moment for "doing development right this time", protecting Country and sacred sites while "delivering reliable power, jobs and economic opportunity for our communities".
“This show of commitment from Energy Ministers means we have an opportunity to position First Nations peoples as co-designers and drivers of projects,” says Nolan.
“And with Indigenous land title now recognised over more than half of the Australian continent, First Nations’ land and consent will be more critical than ever.
“Once the First Nations Clean Energy Strategy is in the government’s hands, it will then be the job of Minister (Chris) Bowen and governments at all levels rolling up their sleeves and getting on with the job of implementing it...”