Engagement with First Nations people is part of referring and assessing actions under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This engagement is expected to be tailored and respectful. Not only is it the law, but this can also help you to undertake your action in a more inclusive way.
The EPBC Act promotes partnering with First Nations people to:
- seek First Nations knowledge of country and environmental management
- protect and manage the environment
- conserve and use Australia's biodiversity in a sustainable way.
First Nations people include communities, groups and individuals who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent.
The Interim Engaging with First Nations People and Communities on Assessments and Approvals under Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 outlines your statutory obligations. It also contains our expectations for how you engage with First Nations people and communities under the EPBC Act.
Identifying who to consult
Your proposed project may affect various First Nations people, communities, groups, and organisations. These may include:
- Traditional Owner organisations
- Native Title holders and claimants
- Native Title Prescribed Bodies Corporate and Representative Bodies
- Aboriginal or Torres Strait landowners and trustees
- Land Councils.
It is particularly important to engage directly with the relevant Traditional Owners. They have authority to speak for the Country that may be affected by a proposed development. You may need to engage with more than one group of Traditional Owners, depending on where impacts could occur.
Development of a First Nations engagement standard
We are developing a National Environmental Standard for First Nations engagement and participation in decision-making. This will be known as the First Nations Standard. This is being developed through a collaborative process led by the Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC).
This Standard will be made under new national environmental laws. This will occur following passage of the legislation. It is expected that the Interim Guidance document will be replaced by the First Nations engagement standard.