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Kantri Laif - Issue 4 2008

Author:  NAILSMA
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Welcome back to all those readers of the only Indigenous news for north Australian Indigenous land and sea managers. A lot has happened since the last edition of Kantri Laif – changes in the national Government, NT Government leadership and NLC leadership were major changes. However, NAILSMA is also changing. We have been working on a new refined structure, but more on that later. I’d also like to take the chance to welcome new staff members at NAILSMA – David Wise, Lyndall McLean, Janely Seah, Jessica Lewfatt and Hugh Wallace-Smith. I anticipate announcing the Operations Manager in the near future. I welcome you all to the exciting work that NAILSMA and its member agencies are involved in.

Although it is becoming accepted that northern Australia is a region that is home to long-standing Indigenous culture and heritage as well as a global centre of marine and terrestrial biodiversity. It still attracts unreasonable and emotionally driven attention on many matters including the complex issue of harvesting native animals for customary purposes. However, my view is that NAILSMA will continue to take a pragmatic approach to these important issues by working with Indigenous communities and agencies to ensure that the people most equipped to manage these and many other resources in the north, continue to do so. However, these services provided by Indigenous people have to be paid for as legitimate jobs and a contribution towards maintaining the environment and the communities that do so.

The establishment of the Indigenous Water Policy Group has become a significant and important asset to Indigenous people across the north by developing a position on how Indigenous people should share in any benefits that may arise from water trading. Chair of the IWPG, Mr Joe Ross has been doing a lot of work for the IWPG, and as a member of the former Northern Taskforce, has continued to maintain a strong connection into relevant policy areas of the Australian Government. The commencement of the Indigenous Community Water Facilitator Network (ICWFN) will be a major contributor to ensuring that Indigenous people in key catchments in northern Australia are fully informed and part of the planning and implementation process of water reform in the north. We anticipate placing 6 facilitators across the north whilst the coordinator, Hugh Wallace-Smith will be based out of Darwin.

During April, NAILSMA co-hosted the International Expert Group Meeting On Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change, our first foray into collaborating with United Nations agencies. This meeting was co-hosted with the United Nations University – Institute of Advanced Studies and the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. This meeting made a number of recommendations that were presented at the Permanent Forum in New York, whereby Jean Fenton represented NAILSMA and gave a case study on carbon abatement (see report in this edition). Other related meetings being co-hosted by NAILSMA will be “An International Indigenous Expert Exchange on Issues and Opportunities arising from Emerging Trends in Mainstream Water Management” to be held in northeast Arnhem Land 7/8th August 2008.

The abatement of greenhouse gases by better managing savanna fires on Indigenous owned lands has become a major focus of NAILSMA, in particular ensuring that the appropriate policy options are being considered in the development of the National Emissions Trading Scheme. We have been working to develop a number of projects in the north through our partner agencies that could become significant to reduce greenhouse emissions, as well as develop culturally appropriate and robust enterprises for Indigenous communities.

NAILSMA has also been at the forefront of advocating for increased resources for Caring for Country and rangers. The Working on Country Program has also been pushed hard by NAILSMA, but I believe that more thinking has to go into the longevity of these programs and the development of a new industry. It does represent a positive start.

In closing, it has been 5 years that NAILSMA has been in operation, there are a number of significant developments that have occurred in the last 6 months. The north is getting increased resources to deal with a number of significant challenges around Indigenous welfare reform, Kimberley gas development and the development of northern water being three important ones. I look forward to continue to work for Indigenous people in the north on these and many other important issues into the future.


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