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State of the Environment report notes Indigenous people will suffer disproportionately from climate change

Emma Ruben -

The recently released State of the Environment report has demonstrated how climate change has had and will have, a greater impact on Indigenous Australians over any other group.

Authors of the report detailed how environmental damage and loss of species is accelerating thanks to the worsening climate crisis.

The report also notes how the climate crisis has already begun affecting the environment and Indigenous groups.

This has been the first time the report has held an Indigenous chapter and had 12 Indigenous co-authors. This includes Wuthathi and Meriam co-chief author Terri Janke.

Ms Janke said there are numerous ways such as through natural disasters and rising sea levels, in which Indigenous people are affected by climate change.

"There's no doubt about it that climate change will impact Indigenous people disproportionately," she said.

"It's already happening with rising sea levels in the Torres Strait, the changes of water coming in through in Arnhem Land and Kakadu.

"When the climate changes, so does the traditional knowledge and the Indigenous adaptation towards the solution."

Prior to the report being released, Indigenous ranger communities had already begun to see the affects of these within their own pockets of land.

Mandaburra ranger James Epong in Far North Queensland said they have already had to relearn some of their techniques.

"The bottle brush used to bloom just before winter and it lets us know that the silverfish are fat," he said.

"So the red bottle brush didn't flower this year, it flowered later on.

"The fish were there and we caught them, but we've got to look at some other type of indicator now to let us know."

Biodiversity and Environment Science chairman and co-author of the biodiversity section of the report Stephen van Leeuwen said climate change affected the native environment.

"Climate change is a big challenge...more frequent droughts, prolonged flooding, extreme drought and extreme winds these all impact on biodiversity of the landscape and the productivity of that system," he said.

"It will impact on those culturally significant species, particularly the bush tucker, bush foods and bush meats and the availability of those to Traditional Owners.

"How we deal with that we're still coming to grips with."

Mr van Leeuwen said the changes climate change will bring to the environment will only affect Indigenous Australians more.

"Indigenous Australians, particularly those in remote, isolated areas are going to be heavily impacted by higher temperatures and so forth," he said.

"But economically, they're at the poorer end of society so they have the least ability to respond and to adapt to these changes and challenges."

Ms Janke Indigenous knowledge needed to be considered when it comes to protecting the environment.

"I think that Indigenous knowledge is really going to be able to work with mainstream science together," she said.

"Because one is very observational and integral in a cultural practice handed down many generations, and then you have mainstream science practices which can be quite clinical.

"What I feel in observing the scientists that were involved in this collaboration is the bringing together of Indigenous knowledge, gives that deeper lens to understanding the natural environment as interconnected with everything instead of a very person-centric view."

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