Driving Indigenous-led climate solutions on Aboriginal land

Attractive smiling woman, Dr Heidi Norman (aboriginal)
Dr Heidi Norman

Research to address the urgent need to involve and support NSW Aboriginal communities in climate change adaptation has received a boost with a grant of $125,000 from the James Martin Institute for Public Policy (JMI).

The University of Technology (UTS) Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges, led by Gomeroi researcher Professor Heidi Norman in collaboration with researchers from the Institute for Sustainable Futures will utilise the funding to work with Local Aboriginal Land Councils to assess renewable energy projects and climate change risk on their land.

The Indigenous-led research project builds on insights from Professor Norman’s 20 years of research on Aboriginal Land Rights in NSW and extensive consultation with the Aboriginal Land Council network.

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Professor Norman, Associate Dean (Indigenous) in the UTS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, said Aboriginal people are already on the frontline of the climate crisis.

“This is in part the legacy of where Aboriginal reserves and missions were created and the land we have been able to recover under the Aboriginal Land Rights,” she said.

Despite holding communal land assets of significant conservation value, Indigenous communities have faced challenges in effectively participating in climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.

“Our research reveals that Aboriginal landholders are optimistic about the possibilities of renewable energy and can see the benefits of being involved in this sector but have limited resources to engage strategically in bold energy transition plans”, said Professor Norman.

“The renewable energy transition presents opportunities for Aboriginal landholders in NSW to participate in new and sustainable economies.

“This could include leveraging land for renewable energy projects, deriving benefits including collective income generation and capacity-building, and for Aboriginal values and aspirations to be built into the foundation and long-term operation of renewable energy projects.”

JMI will provide dedicated support to Professor Norman’s team to translate their insights for a policy audience and amplify their research impact through targeted engagement with policymakers.

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The research team is led by Professor Norman and includes Therese Apolonio, A/Prof Chris Briggs, A/Prof Sven Teske, Dr Sarah Niklas, Dr Ed Langham and Dr Saori Miyake.

The JMI-funded research complements other research initiatives involving Professor Norman and the CAIK team.

Professor Norman is a founding member of the First Nations Clean Energy Network and serves on the Steering Committee and was recently appointed to the Commonwealth Government’s First Nations Clean Energy and Emissions Reduction Advisory Group.

The advisory committee will assist the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water in the development of a First Nations Clean Energy Strategy.

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