With a Senate Committee into the Juukan Gorge crisis due to conclude today, the Greens have announced a comprehensive $767 million ‘Caring for Country’ plan to expand protections for Indigenous areas and sacred sites, fund more First Nations ranger programs and legislate environmental personhood to areas of First Nations significance – ensuring that future crises’ like that at Juukan are avoided.
“Caring for Country is our birthright as First Nations people. Successive governments have undermined Aboriginal land rights and heritage protections to favour big corporations, who often make big donations to the Liberal and Labor parties,” said the Greens spokesperson for First Nations: Gunnai, Gunditjmara and DjabWurrung Senator Lidia Thorpe.
“To avoid the kind of destruction we saw at Juukan, we need better laws to protect First Nations heritage and Country.
“That’s why the Greens will legislate environmental personhood to areas of First Nations significance. Environmental personhood is giving nature, or parts of nature (like mountains, rivers, and lakes) rights in the same way that humans have rights.
Environmental personhood reconfigures our relationship to the lands we inhabit through an Aboriginal lens. We rely on our lands, waters and sky to survive. Likewise, our lands, waters and sky rely on us to survive. Our plan, released today, reflects this ongoing connection to Country.”
The Greens will:
- Strengthen laws to protect First Nations tangible and intangible heritage, knowledge, and intellectual property
- Expand Indigenous Protected Areas that are owned, cared for and managed by First Nations people
- Triple funding for First Nations ranger programs as Ranger programs deliver up to $3 worth of environmental and socio-economic value for every dollar spent. This is a $767m commitment
“Billionaires, big polluters and big corporations will foot the bill. They have profiteered off stolen lands for decades. It’s about time they Pay the Rent and work with us to heal Country, for everybody’s benefit.” Said Thorpe.
As stated by Yamatji-Noongar Senator for Western Australia Dorinda Cox: the Greens spokesperson for Mining and Resources:
“Juukan Gorge was legally obliterated, sanctioned and given permission for ‘the right to destroy’ by the current and brutally unfair law, that saw the economic benefits of mining more important than the connection of First Nations people to their Country,” she said.
“The destruction has caused deep trauma and shock for not only the First Nations people of the immediate area, and in WA, but across Australia and the world.
“The consequential hand wringing and apologies by the mining companies mean nothing if our laws continue to allow proponents to legally get away with destroying these cultural sites.
“Our people, our lands, for now and into the future need certainty, not a wink and a nudge that we can trust mining companies to do the right thing, because history has shown us that we can’t trust them.
“I now call on all shareholders, investors, mining company boards and executives to stick their necks out and publicly call on the WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson to rethink the draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill and give First Nations people the final right to say ‘No’, rather than giving him the final say.
“Aboriginal people want to see the Bill before it is introduced into Parliament, we want to make sure that it includes internationally recognised best practices around Free, Prior and Informed consent, otherwise it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.
“We have been waiting 50 years for this Bill to make First Nations the primary decision makers of their cultural heritage, and this once in a lifetime moment cannot be lost to us,” she said.
Unfairness of the Bill:
- The Minister still gets the final say, even if Traditional Owners say no;
- The draft Bill still allows proponents to legally destroy cultural heritage sites;
- Aboriginal people are not the primary decision makers.