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REVEALED: the Indigenous voices who guided Australia's State of the Environment report

Callan Morse -

First Nations Australians have contributed extensively to the Australian Government’s recently released State of the Environment report.

Released every five years, the report provides an independent, comprehensive and evidence-based assessment of the state of Australia’s environment.

Delivered to the then-Liberal government in 2021 and released early last week, Indigenous voice within the report is at an all-time high.


Some 11 First Nations Australians have contributed as authors across the report’s biodiversity, climate, coasts, extreme events, heritage, Indigenous, inland water, land, marine and urban chapters.

They were lead by co-chief author Terri Janke.

Ms Janke is an expert on Indigenous cultural and intellectual property as well as innovator in the Indigenous business sector as chief executive of Terri Janke & Co,

Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek released the report earlier this week.

In addition to acting as co-chief author of the report, the Wuthathi and Meriam woman contributed directly to the heritage and Indigenous chapters of the paper.

Barkandji woman Zena Cumpston was also heavily involved in the production of the report, contributing to it’s Indigenous, heritage and urban chapters.

Mibu Fischer, a descendent of the Noonuccal, Ngugu and Gorenpul clans of Quandamooka and Cass Hunter, a descendent of Kuku Yalanji and Maluiligal nations informed on both the the report’s coasts and marine sections.

The Federal Government’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water also worked along side the National Indigenous Advisory Committee to guide the development of the Indigenous chapter of the report, which was included for the first time.

As part of the report consultation process and Indigenous authors webinar was held to discuss the potential for Indigenous knowledge about climatic cycles, how Traditional Owner groups are participating in restorative Care of Country and how opportunities for First Nations people who live off country to contribute to the 2021 report. 

Murawin, a Queensland based Indigenous-led consultancy was also engaged to work with authors to include Indigenous matter in the report and ensure that comprehensive engagement with Traditional Owners and Indigenous communities occurred.

From an environmental perspective, this year’s report paints a grim picture of the health of the Australian environment.

Australia has lost more mammal species to extinction than any other continent.

Speaking about the release of the report to the National Press Club of Australia, Federal Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek highlighted the impact deteriorating health of the country may have in the future.

“If we continue on the trajectory we are on, the precious places, landscapes, animals and plants that we think of when we think of home, may not be here for our kids and grandkids”, she said.

“While it’s a confronting read, Australians deserve the truth.”

Ms Plibersek said many of Australia’s natural environments and ecosystems were in dire straits.

“Individually, each of these revelations is dreadful”, she said.

“Overall, the state and trend of the environment in Australia are poor and deteriorating, with abrupt changes in ecological systems being recorded in the past five years.”

2021 State of the Environment report’s Indigenous contributors

  • Co-chief author: Terri Janke (Wuthathi/Meriam)
  • Indigenous: Terri Janke (Wuthathi/Meriam), Zena Cumpston  (Barkandji), Joe Morrison (Dagoman and Mualgal )
  • Biodiversity: Stephen van Leeuwen (Wardandi Noongar)
  • Climate: Damian Morgan-Bulled (Yorta Yorta), Sonia Cooper (Yorta Yorta)
  • Coasts: Mibu Fischer (Noonuccal, Ngugu and Gorenpul), Cass Hunter (Kuku Yalanji and Maluiligal)
  • Extreme events: Oliver Costello (Bundjalung)
  • Heritage: Terri Janke (Wuthathi/Meriam), Zena Cumpston  (Barkandji)
  • Inland water: Bradley Moggridge (Murri)
  • Land: Barry Hunter (Djabugay)
  • Marine: Mibu Fischer (Noonuccal, Ngugu and Gorenpul), Cass Hunter (Kuku Yalanji and Maluiligal)
  • Urban: Zena Cumpston  (Barkandji)


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