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Pages tagged "native title"

Implementing free prior and informed consent in Australia

There is growing recognition that First Nations people should have the opportunity to be actively included in the clean energy transition as partners sharing in the economic benefits of development on their Country. 

Around 63% of Australia’s land mass is subject to Native Title claims or determinations, much of which may be needed for energy generation. 

Early engagement with First Nations people and obtaining FPIC is and will be central to many proposed clean energy projects.


A Way Forward: Government Inquiry

The Australian government held an inquiry into the destruction of 46,000 year old caves at Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara, Western Australia by the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia.

The final report released in 2021 made a recommendation that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and specifically free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) be enshrined in law.


Policy and legislation

Policy and legislative systems in Australia have yet to incorporate principles of FPIC as established in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

An emerging trend in the US is projects will not be financed unless the FPIC of impacted First Nations communities has been obtained under new policy being developed by its finance sector.

Governments in Australia must play their role too and keep ahead of these global developments. 


What should industry and investors do?

Industry does not have to wait for Governments to embed FPIC.

To dispense directors’ duties faithfully and protect projects from risk, boards must ensure FPIC is standard across company operations. It should be front of mind from the outset of any development. Similarly, investors should demand companies invest in and adopt FPIC standards and principles. 

Failure to obtain FPIC can result in operational and reputational risks, and more often legal risk.

Pursuing FPIC can be an effective mitigation strategy.

ESG (environmental, social, governance) considerations, aligned with international best practice, require project proponents to embrace principles and concepts such as the right to FPIC, equitable benefit sharing, project co-development and co-ownership and First Nations-led decision making. 

Particularly now with the rush for land, waters and critical minerals to support the clean energy value chain, resetting relationships and embedding FPIC should simply be seen as sound business practice.

Download FPIC Manual for Project Practitioners

Other references:


What does the Native Title Act say about consent?

Under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) the rights and interests of Native Title holders are protected.

Proponents or other seeking access to land covered by those rights and interests must consult and negotiate with impacted Native Title holders.

The Act establishes a process for determining First Nations rights and interests. 

It also requires proponents to engage with registered native title claimants or holders of rights and interests, such as requiring Native Title parties to be consulted prior to the valid grant of certain interests in land (for instance, grants of tenure for clean energy projects). 

Download Native Title Act


Indigenous Land Use Agreements 

Under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), there is the ability to enter into Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA).

These agreements typically grant access to land in exchange for agreed compensation and other commercial or community benefits.

The types of ILUA specified in the Native Title Act are:
  • Body corporate agreements which are made for areas where native title has been proved to exist (a registered native title group);
  • Area agreements which are made where there are no registered native title bodies corporate for the whole area, and may deal with a range of future acts and access to non-exclusive agricultural and pastoral leases (a claimant group not yet registered as having a proven native title claim over the land/water); and 
  • Alternative procedure agreements which may be made where there are no registered native title bodies corporate for the whole area. They may also provide a framework for making other agreements about matters relating to native title rights and interests. This third type of agreement can be complicated if there are ILUAs being negotiated and entered into against wishes of First Nations groups.
Any party to an ILUA may (on the grounds all of the other parties agree) apply in writing to the Native Title Registrar for the agreement to be registered on the Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreements
The Native Title Act requires that the Registrar must give notice of the ILUA to any of the persons and bodies specified in the Native Title Act who are not parties to the agreement and must also notify the public. If all procedures and conditions are complied with, the ILUA will be registered. Once it is registered, the ILUA has effect (in addition to any effect it may have apart from the Act) and is enforceable between the parties. 

Download Native Title (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Regulations 1999


What if I don't gain consent?

Development without consent may cause unnecessary costs, risk and delay.



Australia presently has the second largest number of climate cases globally.

The Australian and Pacific Climate Change Litigation database includes cases across several different categories including:

  1. Project Approval (mitigation) cases
  2. Project Approval (adaptation) cases
  3. Corporate Accountability cases
  4. Constitutional and Human Rights / State Accountability cases
  5. Cases that broaden access to justice in climate cases

Download Climate Change Litigation database




The potential for First Nations participation in renewables in Western Australia is vast

Western Australia has very strong solar resources and nationally competitive wind resources that are largely untapped. There is clearly much potential for the development of clean energy projects on land where First Nations communities hold an interest.

Read more

South Australia Policy Overview: First Nations and Clean Energy

South Australia is a global leader in renewable energy. Driven by high quality wind resources and rooftop solar in a smaller electricity market, renewable energy supplies around 70% of SA's electricity consumption. SA has one of the highest market shares for renewable energy in the world and has a target for 100% renewable energy by 2030. 


Thanks to Neoen for the image of the 150 MW Hornsdale Power Reserve

Queensland Policy Overview: First Nations and Clean Energy

Queensland has very strong solar resources, and also high quality and nationally competitive wind resources and there is clearly much potential for the development of clean energy projects on First Nations-titled lands. 


This policy overview was drafted with assistance from Elizabeth McDonald, Director at Chalk & Behrendt  and Taryn Lane, consultant and Manager of Hepburn Community Wind Farm. 

Thanks to Hoshi Moshi for the image!

Key factors influencing negotiations for First Nations interest holders

Lawyer Emily Gerrard offers some practical suggestions around negotiation of agreements and related arrangements and opportunities when it comes to large-scale renewable energy projects. Emily is a climate change and environmental lawyer with a focus on resources, native title and development.

Northern Territory Policy Overview: First Nations and Clean Energy

This paper was prepared to support conversations at the Mparntwe (Alice Springs) roundtable for the First Nations Clean Energy Strategy. The Northern Territory has some of the strongest solar radiation in the world and there is clearly much potential to develop clean energy projects on First Nations titled lands. 



Special thanks to Christian Bass for use of the photo.