Placing First Nations people and communities at the centre of Australia’s clean energy boom is now underway with the first community roundtable happening in the Pilbara today.
The Federal Government and all Energy Ministers committed in August 2022 to co-design and implement a First Nations Clean Energy Strategy to ensure that First Nations people help drive the energy transformation.
Ministers committed to resource the roundtables to support the First Nations Clean Energy Network’s three pillars – community, industry partnerships and policy reform, citing the Strategy development as an opportunity to review laws, regulation and policy, lift barriers and implement regulatory reform, and to stoke government investment in innovation, technology and infrastructure, so that First Nations people can share in and benefit from the renewable energy boom.
“This first of many roundtables will help outline a clean energy and investment vision by communities in and around the Pilbara,” says Karrina Nolan, a descendant of the Yorta Yorta people and a member of the First Nations Clean Energy Network.
“It is the Network’s aim to ensure First Nations people are resourced to participate in and socially and economically benefit from the clean energy transition.
"First Nations communities struggle with unreliable expensive power and the impacts of this are worsening as the costs of living rise. The regulatory environment is complex and can frustrate efforts to build energy security.
“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.”
Chris Croker, a Luritja man from the central desert and another member of the First Nations Clean Energy Network 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 people will likely bring to the roundtable.
“People have a chequered history with mining projects and the extractive industries on their land and this is a chance to reset that.”
Nolan agrees. “This moment is ripe for doing development right this time, protecting country and sacred sites while delivering reliable power, jobs and economic opportunity for our communities.”
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.
“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 Bowen and governments at all levels rolling up their sleeves and getting on with the job of implementing it.”
PILBARA ROUNDTABLE DETAILS: 27 & 28 March 2023
Where: Wanangkura Stadium, South Hedland
27 March: Representatives from the First Nations community, Traditional Owners, Prescribed Body Corporates (PBC’s), Land Councils and Community Organisations will join members from the First Nations Clean Energy Network at the roundtable.
28 March: Industry, key government department and political representatives, advisers and policy experts will join First Nations leaders to both listen and share details of current government clean energy financing, roadmaps and priorities at a Federal and State level.