Speech at the launch of the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Land and Sea Managers Network, Rio de Janeiro
WED 20 JUNE 2012
Thank you very much and thank you to our ambassador for that introduction.
Can I welcome the support of our co-hosts for this event: Norway, New Zealand, Tokelau and Brazil – thank you very much for your support.
If I was home in Australia I would commence this speech by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet and in the spirit of reconciliation paying my respects to elders past and present.
We do that when we commence a speech in Australia because we want to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land.
We want to offer a spirit of reconciliation; it’s an important gesture of respect made by our settler society now to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – the indigenous peoples of Australia.
It’s also an important recognition of the special connection between indigenous peoples and the lands and waters for which they are custodians.
We’re all now more than familiar with the importance of this year as the 20th anniversary of the original Rio Earth Summit.
In Australia, this year marks another momentous 20th anniversary.
On 3 June this year Australia celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Mabo decision of our High Court: the finding that Native Title existed in our nation.
This monumental decision acknowledged the traditional laws and customs of indigenous people by affirming the right of Indigenous people to their lands under Australian law.
So it is particularly fitting that 20 years on from the Earth Summit, after 20 years from the Mabo decision, Australia today joins with our co-hosts to acknowledge and support the profound and continuing connection between Indigenous peoples and their lands and waters.
Today we acknowledge the immensely important work of indigenous peoples and local communities as custodians with knowledge and expertise linking ancient traditions to modern practices as guardians of the natural environment all over the world.
A custodianship, a connection and guardianship – each of these are important and intense because there’s so many indigenous people and local communities, the health the local eco-systems is vital to their economic livelihoods and social wellbeing.
Last year Traditional Owners of the West Kimberley celebrated the inscription of 19 million hectares of their country on our national heritage list.
The three year journey to include the West Kimberley on this very important list was one of the largest and most complex listings and allowed Traditional Owners to share stories about their culture and ecological knowledge of country, which had been passed down from generation to generation over thousands of years.
All the peoples of the world owe a great debt to the world’s indigenous peoples – for their custodianship over the land. And sea and all of the peoples of the world share a responsibility to join with the world’s indigenous peoples to protect and nourish the land and sea in the future.
Protecting our shared environment is a shared task.
So I am particularly pleased that everywhere today people are building relationships, sharing knowledge and ideas for best practice on land and sea management.
Contributing to the social and environmental health of their own nations, and of the world. And the Australian government is determined to play our part.
So I’m delighted today to announce that we are seeking partners from across the world to work with us to develop an Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Land and Sea Managers Network.
Yes, protecting our shared environment is a shared task, and so we must come together. That is the purpose of the Network.
In Australia indigenous peoples have played an important role in shaping many of the initiatives that we are proud of.
For example, the Working on Country Program, through which 700 indigenous rangers, funded by the Australian Government, manage the environmental and cultural values of over 1.5 million square kilometres of land and sea.
Over the next twelve months we will be working with our partners and indigenous peoples from around the world to explore and test ways of effectively and efficiently connecting land and sea managers across the world.
Next year, Australia will host an international conference with our partners.
We want participants to help shape this initiative from the ground up. And to develop practical activities that will form a strong foundation for this innovative and well-grounded international network.
I take this opportunity to commend to you our book One Place, Many Stories, Our Country.
It tells the story of the Government’s programs supporting indigenous people to care for country, including the West Kimberley story as told by the indigenous people we partner with.
This book is testament to the resilience of Australia’s indigenous people and their communities, and the significant contribution they have made to towards conserving and protecting our environment and biodiversity towards sustainable development and poverty eradication.
The Australian Government continues to work with Australia’s indigenous peoples for sustainable development outcomes.
The Government invests in a number of innovative programs, the Working on Country indigenous rangers, Indigenous Protected Areas and Indigenous Carbon Farming, but recognise protecting the environment is a shared responsibility.
It is an Australian Government priority to support indigenous people and improve social cohesion.
Better health and economic opportunities, as well as conserve biological diversity and sustainable use of natural resources.
We are determined to ensure that the indigenous people of Australia share in the wealth created by the rich natural resources on their traditional lands.
That is our determination at home, and it is one we extend to the world as well.
We are committed to supporting the indigenous people and local communities to share knowledge and best practice, to conserve biodiversity and to use our natural resources sustainably.
And, most importantly of all, we are committed to doing this in partnership by bringing people together.
It is a very great honour to be here for this launch today.
Thank you very much.