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Two-day roundtable co-designing Australia’s inaugural First Nations Clean Energy Strategy starts today in Cairns

Over 100 First Nations leaders and industry and government representatives are registered to attend the fourth roundtable in the co-design of the inaugural First Nations Clean Energy Strategy in Cairns, Queensland on 28-29 August 2023.

The First Nations Clean Energy Strategy comes under the National Energy Transformation Partnership the Federal government has with states and territories. It prioritises, among other things, a reset of the energy landscape with First Nations having a central role in participating in and benefiting from the energy transition.  

Previous roundtables have been held in the Pilbara, Alice Springs and Canberra, with further roundtables scheduled for NSW, South Australia, Victoria, Perth and Tasmania.

At the Queensland roundtable, First Nations Traditional Owners and community members will join leaders from the clean and renewable energy industry, small businesses across the supply chain, community organisations and social services, vocational education and training specialists, scientists and policy advisors, and representatives from a variety of State and Federal government agencies to discuss opportunities and barriers impacting First Nations participation in Queensland’s energy transition.

First Nations engineer Ruby Heard from Rockhampton, a Steering Group member of the First Nations Clean Energy Network says today’s roundtable is an opportunity to listen, reset relationships and create legacy change.

“The opportunity of clean energy should be available to all.

“First Nations in Queensland are currently not all benefiting from the state’s renewable and clean energy opportunities, where we see some of the best solar and wind resources in Australia, and the world.  

“Despite the massive solar take-up, most First Nations people are yet to benefit from rooftop solar solutions in their homes and communities, and in public and social housing.

“First Nations people should be able to access affordable reliable renewable electricity the same as everyone else.

“With key policy change this inequity can be addressed, removing reliance on diesel in remote areas and creating opportunities for place-based community-led renewable energy solutions.”

Yorta Yorta woman Karrina Nolan, Co-Chair of the First Nations Clean Energy Network says the roundtables will draw out key issues impacting First Nations people in Queensland at the family, local, Country and Nation level.

“This is the biggest transformation of our energy system we will see in our lifetime. Our communities must be part of the process, from how lands and waters could be impacted through to the potential benefits of renewables if we genuinely engage.

“We believe this could be such an opportunity for sustainable economic development if done well, and want to see industry, government and community work together. 

“Partnering with First Nations in projects on First Nations land is an investment decision for government and industry players.”

Luritja man Chris Croker, Co-Chair of the First Nations Clean Energy Network says people need access to advice to deal with the huge number of proponents knocking on the door.

“First Nations people don’t want to be part of the problem - they want to be part of the solution. 

“We’re hearing a lot of issues come up at the roundtables with people worried about affordable access to reliable electricity, a lack of equity in access to new energy resources such as solar, smart technologies and energy efficient housing, and concerns about new transmission lines criss-crossing the country.

“Dealing with multiple proponents is another issue of concern. 

“People want to see rock-solid industry and government frameworks and resourcing mobilised to guide proponents early engagement with First Nations and ensure any consent provided at the beginning and during the life of a project - including post closure - reduces liability and risk for First Nations, investors and the State.

“As the energy transformation is largely happening on First Nations peoples’ Country, it can’t take place without First Nations peoples’ consent and without ensuring co-benefits to First Nations impacted.

“This might include creating opportunities for community-led and owned solutions, mandating free prior and informed consent, ensuring long term training and jobs pathways, addressing the power imbalance in negotiating agreements and creating equity in the ongoing management of projects, and ensuring opportunities for equity stakes and benefit sharing schemes beyond jobs and handouts to build long term First Nations wealth.”

In Day One of Queensland’s roundtable, facilitators will ask First Nations what they want out of the energy transition and what policies should be taken to government to get funded. Day Two will test those recommendations with community, industry and government representatives.

The First Nations Clean Energy Network is partnering with the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) in organising the roundtables and advising on the co-design of the First Nations Clean Energy Strategy. 

A draft Strategy is due by year-end. The Federal government has committed to implementing the First Nations Clean Energy Strategy from early 2024.






Thanks to David Clode for the photo!