Our department acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, skies, waters, and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.
We see strong, respectful, and genuine partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as being critical to progressing the government’s reform agenda across our portfolio and achieving better outcomes.
Our department’s vision is for an Australia that is prosperous because it is sustainable, with community and Country at the heart of our actions. In delivering on this vision, it is essential that we incorporate the expertise, experience, and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Our work will recognise that Indigenous knowledge is critical to living sustainably in Australia. The 65,000 years of knowledge that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hold as custodians of Australia’s land and natural resources is essential to achieving our vision. Traditional knowledge will be used with permission and respect of Indigenous cultural and intellectual property.
We are committed to meaningful engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to achieve our priorities, while contributing to Closing the Gap. We will work together to develop and implement our policies and programs; support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have a stronger voice in our approaches; and incorporate Indigenous values and knowledge across climate change, energy, environmental and heritage protection, and water management initiatives.
We will continue to partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the management of Commonwealth parks, gardens, water, and the marine environment to ensure the protection of natural and cultural values, and enhance the cultural, social, spiritual, environmental, and economic wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We also commit to creating a culturally supportive environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, and increasing understanding, knowledge, and appreciation of First Nations cultures within our department.
What we will do:
- Establish a dedicated central First Nations branch to integrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ advice across the portfolio, coordinate and deepen engagement with, and deliver on, the Closing the Gap Targets and Priority Reforms.
- Develop our Reconciliation Action Plan to meaningfully advance reconciliation, including through recruitment, procurement, cultural capability, leadership, partnerships, and cultural safety and competence.
- Collaborate and partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including taking time to listen and understanding that every community will have unique experiences, preferences and perspectives.
- Prioritise reforms in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ employment practices and cultural competency for staff, with a focus on engagement and open dialogue on policy, programs and service delivery.
- Create a culturally safe and supportive workplace by celebrating our diversity, recognising and working to reduce cultural load, and celebrating the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
- Advance key policy priorities that directly relate to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including water, clean energy and cultural heritage protection.
- In the lead up to the Voice Referendum, we will support staff understanding of the Voice by providing factual information, uphold our obligations to work with impartiality, and ensure a culturally safe and inclusive workplace for all employees.
- Continually seek to exceed our portfolio’s Indigenous Procurement Target by recognising that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a wealth of knowledge on topics that may relate to the department’s work, and stimulating Indigenous entrepreneurship and business development in line with the Indigenous Procurement Policy.
We will review this statement on an annual basis.
David Fredericks, PSM
Secretary, Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water
1 June 2023