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Australian government calls for First Nations voices on clean energy and climate change

Giovanni Torre -

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney and Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen have released a consultation paper to inform the development of Australia's First Nations Clean Energy Strategy.

The paper released on Tuesday builds on a series six roundtables held with First Nations communities over past eight months as well as input from the First Nations Clean Energy and Emissions Reduction Advisory Committee.

The Ministers said the Strategy, developed in conjunction with Indigenous Australians, "is formulated to drive investment, cooperation and lasting benefits for Indigenous communities across the country".

The government noted that remote Indigenous communities are among the most energy insecure in the world and said the first stage of engagement has highlight several priorities: making sure First Nations Australians have access to reliable and affordable energy, wherever they live across the country; prioritising access to skills and workforce development to foster meaningful economic participation and First Nations' business opportunities; and providing practical support so First Nations people can be equal partners in the transformation.

The strategy aims to target fairer access to cleaner, cheaper energy for Indigenous households – along with reduced diesel usage, cheaper finance and more skilled employment in remote areas.

Ms Burney said the government is "ensuring First Nations people have a real say in Australia's energy future and are not locked out of the clean energy transformation".

"First Nations people have strong local and cultural knowledge, including management of Country, and this can and should inform how Australia transforms its energy systems to achieve net zero by 2050," she said.

Responses to the consultation paper can be made through the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water's Consultation Hub: https://consult.dcceew.gov.au/first-nations-clean-energy-strategy-consultation-paper.

First Nations Clean Energy and Emissions Reduction Advisory Committee co-lead, Dr Kate George, said the creation of "a genuine First Nations Clean Energy Strategy" and improving collaboration with government and industry sectors will be fundamental to securing support for Australia's "once in a lifetime" clean energy transformation.

Fellow co-lead, Travis Thomas, said the strategy has the potential to support the four priority reforms at the centre of the Closing the Gap agreement "with a focus on transforming government organisations to work better with and for First Nations people".

"It could also improve First Nations people's access to data and information to make informed decisions, and build the community-controlled sector," he said.

"This can be looked upon as a moment, which do not come often, which if the involved industry, government, First Nations and the broader community approach in a reciprocal, considered manner, can truly change opportunities in involved First Nations communities".

More information on the First Nations Clean Energy and Emissions Advisory Committee and its members: First Nations Clean Energy and Emissions Reduction Advisory Committee - DCCEEW.

Mr Bowen said Indigenous people "are important partners" in the clean energy transformation, and they deserve access to cleaner cheaper energy – and energy security.

"By providing the opportunities for First Nations communities to share their perspectives, government and industry are better equipped to ensure the First Nations Clean Energy Strategy delivers for Indigenous Australians," he said.

The federal government is also investing $83.8 million in the First Nations Community Microgrids program to support deployment of microgrids in First Nations communities to improve energy affordability and reliability and reduce emissions, and has committed $2 million to help First Nations communities engage with hydrogen project developers for our Hydrogen Headstart program.

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