Climate justice and Indigenous rights

Norman Frank, Warumungu Traditional Owner, on the benefits of community-owned solar in the Barkly region

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have looked after this land sustainably for tens of thousands of years, whereas the climate crisis has been driven by industrialisation and colonial expansion over a mere two centuries.

With unprecedentedly hot, dangerous and lengthy fire seasons, an unfolding biodiversity crisis and destroyed waterways, the colonial mismanagement of land in Australia is becoming apparent to us all. First Nations people’s connection to country is vital to caring for this land, and we need to act on this and use our power to uplift Indigenous action and voices when responding to the climate crisis.

Not only this, but without embedding climate justice principles in our climate change response, the climate crisis impacts the most on those who have done the least to cause it: first nations people.

For instance in the Territory, Central Australian outstations and communities are running out of water, and poor quality housing in town camps and remote communities cannot be cooled effectively. Long runs of extremely hot days are increasing, leaving poorly housed, homeless and incarcerated people (who are mostly Indigenous, often with complex health conditions) with no means of protecting themselves.

In addition, since self-government in 1978, Territory governments have consistently redirected approximately one third of federal funding apportioned on the basis of disadvantage away from remote areas with high Indigenous populations. In normal times, this is racist, unethical and unjust. With the climate crisis upon us and without climate justice principles embedded in all government decision-making, the cost will be paid in human lives.

This is why Indigenous communities need to be front and centre of our efforts to solve climate change - and why it is our responsibility to ensure that Indigenous people are leaders of our movement.

More info:

To learn more about climate justice:

Check out these resources prepared by Karrina Nolan, Executive Director of Original Power. Hear Karinna speak about Original Power’s work to build the collective capability of First Nations people to genuinely self-determine what happens on their country.

Sign up to take action