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Indigenous delegates at COP26 urge Australian Government to prioritise their communities

Aaron Bloch -

COP26 is the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, being held in Glasgow, from October 31 to November 12.

Among Australia's delegates are three representatives of the Indigenous People's Organisation Australia (IPO); Dr Virginia Marshall, Pastor Ray Minniecon, and Tishiko King, a youth delegate from the Torres Strait.

The Indigenous delegates released a media statement on November 1 regarding the need for the Australian Governmental to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement if it wants to limit global warming to 1oC this century.

The delegates urged the government to communicate and consult with First Nations Peoples to gain from their 60,000 years of knowledge.

The delegates emphasised that the IPO, a national coalition of 300 Indigenous peak organisations, community organisations and individuals from across the country, demand ambition when it comes to environmental mismanagement.

These demands were detailed in a report created by the organisation.

The delegation, led by Dr Virginia Marshall, a Wiradjuri Nyemba woman and researcher at Australian National University (ANU), believes the environmental mismanagement is directly and inequitably impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Dr Marshall believes this disproportionate impact "threatens the human rights of Indigenous people, including our rights to health, water, food, housing, self-determination, and to life itself".

In speaking with the National Indigenous Times, Dr Marshall highlighted the lack of government engagement with "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the conceptual stages of climate change policy" despite the creation of a report "over a decade ago" that demonstrated the importance of consultation with Indigenous communities.

Dr Marshall further described that "diversity, COVID issues and remoteness to the rest of Australian society are key factors on engaging consultation".

Marshall described that the three key priorities in correcting the inequity of climate change impact on Indigenous communities must be consultation, membership on state-wide and federal climate change committees, and the incorporation of "human rights laws, principles and standards in climate change policies".

Pastor Ray Minniecon shared Dr Marshall's views and expanded that the "issues and others we face, are all interlinked and are directly related to the need for self-determination".

"We need to share our knowledge to meet this existential threat" Minniecon continued.

"[This] requires a Makarrata Commission to develop a treaty and enable real decision making, so we can all move forward in partnership to take the necessary action to secure our shared futures."

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Priorities Report will direct the approach taken by the delegates at COP26 and will be sent to both the Australian Government and the Opposition.

The report includes key measures such as cutting CO2 emissions by 75 per cent by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2035, in addition to a commitment to 100 per cent renewable in Australia within a decade.

The report calls for the abolishment of fracking and coal seam gas extraction, as well as the reversal of policies that foster the sale of river waters on the finance market, to ensure water access to Aboriginal communities and continuous environment flows.

The report prioritises legislative change with a proposed review of Cultural Heritage Legislation to incorporate Traditional Owners in decision making with a right to veto the mining of sacred sites, and for a requirement for "Free, Prior and Informed Consent" of all mining and exploration to be legislated.

Despite this report and the delegates' attendance at COP26, Dr Marshall admits there is "significant uncertainty" as to the ability to achieve a maximum 1.5oC increase in global temperature as a result of the "reluctance by some Nation States".

"The current approach of 'watch and wait' by significant contributors in carbon emissions will guarantee the decline in our quality of life," Dr Marshall concluded.

By Aaron Bloch


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