Jobs Events Advertise Newsletter

Indigenous involvement crucial to Australia's renewable energy dreams

David Prestipino -

A review by a specialist hydrogen research centre said there are glaring inclusion gaps in Australia's strategies that are impeding its low-emission approach.

Swinburne University of Technology's Victorian Hydrogen Hub (VH2), with the University of Tasmania, reported the adoption of renewable hydrogen strategies at federal and state levels was mainly led by government and big business, with First Nations input barely sought.

Recent modelling by Net Zero Australia estimated 43 per cent of all clean energy infrastructure required for Australia to reach its net zero emissions target by 2060, would need to be sited on Indigenous lands.

Lead researcher Dr Kim Beasy said the Swinburne team's review found Australia's strategies for the emerging hydrogen economy paid lip service to Indigenous participation and maintained a "top-down, centralised approach" driven by government and industry interests.

"Strategy documents are the blueprints that shape entire industries and their future trajectories," Dr Beasy said.

"Analysing these documents provides a window into whose voices and interests are being centred versus marginalised."

The review highlighted how First Nations communities in partcular had been completely left out of hydrogen plans at national and state levels.

"A glaring oversight is the exclusion of First Nations peoples from the design and development of national and state hydrogen strategies, perpetuating a colonialist mentality," Dr Beasy said.

Swinburne's VH2 team has now urged a redesign of government hydrogen strategies, focusing more on working with communities and Indigenous organisations in a meaningful and authentic way, for public good.

"This includes community engagement, built-in participation, popular sovereignty, community-level agency, and civic ownership," Dr Beasy said.

"Unless Australia's hydrogen strategies undergo a paradigm shift, they will reinforce existing power structures and inequalities."

The Swinburne team's concluding remarks in the renewable hydrogen report said consultation with Indigenous organisations and communities was a priority and "an issue that needs immediate attention".

"In addition, evaluations of how the sector is advancing in Australia focus on tangible, technocratic markers, with little to no mention of how the sector is seeking to advance participatory governance, civic ownership or popular sovereignty as a means to expedite the development of industries."

The findings come after another recent study A socio-spatial analysis of Australia's critical minerals endowment and policy implications, confirmed Australia's most socially-disadvantaged areas hosted the highest number of critical minerals mines and deposits.

The Federal Government's Critical Minerals Strategy guarantees economic "benefit sharing" with First Nations communities and people, but the study's authors believed inequitable distribution of mining's impact and benefits would persist "without major reforms in policy and practice".

Another new study in the renewable energy space, Critical mineral strategies in Australia: Industrial upgrading without environmental or social upgrading, compared 17 federal and state government strategies targeting critical minerals.

The authors found their focus was mainly on facilitating trade and investment and developing regional hubs, and typically paid "limited attention" to First Nations' rights or improving environmental and social regulation.

Recent submissions to the Federal Government's First Nations Clean Energy Strategy emphasised the path to net zero would require Indigenous cooperation and co-management.

The First Nations Clean Energy Network called for financing initiatives to boost capital for First Nations-led clean energy infrastructure projects via "a government-backed loan guarantee scheme to improve First Nations access to financing (and to make financing more affordable) for First Nations communities and groups who wish to purchase equity in clean energy infrastructure projects".

The Canadian government's recent 2024 Budget promised up to C$5 billion for its First Nations communities that seek co-management and economic benefits from resources and energy products.

Consultancy Pollination's submission said the government's strategy must regard First Nations as equity shareholders in the renewable energy transition and urged new initiatives and the removal of legal restrictions that limit capital raising for Indigenous organisations.

"If First Nations are not shareholders, particularly in early stages of project development where they can make decisions on cultural heritage protection, they will need to resort to judicial and other means,". its submission said.

Pollination last year formed the Aboriginal Clean Energy Partnership with East Kimberley Traditional Owners MG Corporation, Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC and the Kimberley Land Council ahead of the East Kimberley Clean Energy Project development, a $3 billion infrastructure project that which the government's Australian Renewable Energy Agency recently commited $1.6m to for a feasibility study on the green hydrogen and ammonia export project.


New Caledonia starting to calm after nights of strife
French police reinforcements have begun arriving in New Caledonia in a massive...
Supreme Court sets date for strip search class action against NSW police
The New South Wales Supreme Court has set a date for the strip search class acti...
Dechlan Brennan 18 May 2024
Māori masters graduate finds home in urban planning
Arizona Haddon, a recent Masters graduate in Urban Planning from the University...
Joseph Guenzler 17 May 2024

   David Prestipino   

Indigenous snub could derail Australia's race to be a clean energy superpower
The Albanese government's third federal budget has been met with cynicism from c...
David Prestipino 16 May 2024
First Nations energy exclusion hurts Australia's global emission target
Look, we get it. $19.7 billion over 10 years to kickstart the clean energy tran...
Karrina Nolan 16 May 2024
2024 Federal Budget: Mixed reactions to 'a confetti shower of inadequate, piecemeal funding'
The Albanese Government's third Federal Budget has been met with cynicism from a...
David Prestipino 15 May 2024
Notable edge as Walyalup unveils 2024 recognition of rich Indigenous history
It was anchors away as Fremantle Football Club unveiled its sharp new Indigenous...
David Prestipino 15 May 2024