native title

Repossession of Australia

We’ve been waiting for over a decade, but ANU researchers Jon Altman and Francis Markham have finally put together a fabulous piece of work documenting the move from the dispossession to the repossession of Australia over the last generation – in 2013 Indigenous landholding is now at 31 per cent of Australia (if non-exclusive native title is included).

This is a major piece of work compiling Commonwealth, State and native title records which is dynamic and ongoing – last year alone there were 40 native title determinations (believe me I know, having tried to do this when working with the government!)

Altman and Markham map showing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land in 2013

The Altman and Markham maps are rich and they make some interesting observations: much of the land is not valued by ABARE and is listed as unallocated Crown land on existing maps. The land is generally intact, although where degraded through mines and loss of habitat there has been no compensation. And the communal land systems are perhaps poorly designed to participate in the modern economy.

So does this landholding have transformative power? Altman and Markham think a big part of the future might be in ecological services. Already, Indigenous Protected Areas form a large chunk of national conservation land, there is a strong overlap of threatened species refuges and Indigenous land, and belated recognition is coming from the Australian Government in the form of a $320m commitment for Working on Country programs over the next five years.

And now the Indigenous Carbon Farming Fund has rolled out its first round, focusing on savanna burning in the mostly Indigenous held north of Australia. Perhaps carbon farming can help Indigenous people take a bigger step into Altman’s hybrid economy – combining traditional with the market.

For more, check out Altman and Markham’s AIATSIS webcast, slides from the Native Title Conference, or Altman’s piece in Crikey.


Energy Futures 2013: Coalition backs CFI

One of the benefits of having an office in Melbourne is being able to attend a broader range of talks than Alice Springs.

For example, I’m pretty sure Greg Hunt has not done a presentation in Alice but tonight I attended his talk at Melbourne Energy Institute’s Energy Futures 2013 seminar series.

Before I could even take a seat, we were treated to a quiet protest of people who turned their back on podium under the slogan “don’t turn your back on the future”.

Greg Hunt outlined his version of embracing the future: agreement on the science and sharing of the targets, but a carbon purchasing fund instead of a carbon price to get there.

If elected, the emissions reduction fund would be based around the existing Carbon Farming Initiative – the Coalition would keep the CFI, the Clean Energy Regulator to administer it and the measurement system (NGERs) for methodologies, but would broaden the CFI to include industry activities as well as the land sector. Encouragingly, Hunt also emphasised the potential of the land sector to contribute abatement outlined in Garnaut’s reports.

This is good news for the CFI. It looks like it’s here to stay.

However, there were hints of uncertainty for the land sector in Greg Hunt’s presentation. The emissions reduction fund budget is $300m, $500m and $750m in the first three years – a huge reduction on current spending across all mitigation policies. This is worrying against Hunt’s comments that the emissions reduction fund is “overallocated for what we need”. Hunt also said that energy efficiency will be early major winner.

When one of the panelists, Michael Brear, was introduced as an engineer from The University of Melbourne, Greg Hunt responded “I like engineers!” Without hesitation Michael said “I like some politicians!”

We all laughed. But if the Coalition is elected, we need to see the details of support for emissions reduction in the land sector, including existing projects.

If I got to ask a question, this is what it would be: You said you support the CFI. Part of the CFI includes provisions designed to make it easier for native title holders. The Coalition put up amendments to weaken these provisions which were voted down. Will you support Indigenous land projects and will you again introduce legislation to weaken the native title provisions?



Native Title Conference 2013

Rowan and I attended the Native Title Conference this week. In addition to a very warm welcome and a taste of the incredible dirtsong, the conference continued the series of carbon panels it started in 2011.  

This year, Emily Gerrard from Allens and the National Indigenous Climate Change Project hosted, with presentations from Shaun Ansell from the Indigenous Land Corporation on Fish River, Tom Holyoake on developments in the Kimberley and our own Rowan Foley talking about carbon as a business that needs long term relationships.

Impressive to the Indigenous Land Corporation leading the way and showing it can be done - Shaun gave a nice presentation identifying all the steps from purchase of the property in 2010 to selling their credits. Shaun emphasised the lesson from all of this: be conservative in your assessments.

Hopefully others can now follow the path and add carbon to their business. 


Arrernte dancers at the warm welcome

Arrernte dancers at the warm welcome