Energy justice for First Nations communities

alliance whole group at congress_600px wide

Aboriginal representatives at the Community Energy Congress have formed an alliance to achieve affordable renewable energy for First Nations communities. Kate Greenwood writes that the ATA is honoured to be part of this process.

ONE OF the highlights of the second Community Energy Congress, held in Melbourne in February this year, was hearing the voices of 13 Aboriginal leaders sharing their personal and powerful stories of what energy justice means to their communities. For some, it is literally a matter of whether they can remain on their ancestral land.

The Aboriginal leaders took to the stage alongside Melina Laboucan-Massimo and Chief Gordon Planes from Canada. In contrast to the enormous energy security challenges faced by Australia’s First Nations communities, in Canada 50% of community energy is owned by First Nations people. Having delegates from Canada inspired everybody and enabled participants to realise the transformational possibilities of community energy.

In special breakout sessions of the congress, those communities negatively affected by resource extraction, dependence on fossil fuels and climate change met to talk about how renewable energy can be part of a story of hope and a catalyst for change, renewing and regenerating their communities. While the bigger goal for Aboriginal communities is self-determination and sustainable nationhood, renewable energy is a means to get there.

One of the most exciting moments of the congress, on day two, was the launch of the First Nations Renewable Energy Alliance, formed by Aboriginal representatives in attendance.

Fred Hooper of the Murriwarri Nation highlighted the massive change of direction. “We go to government all the time,” he said. “And yet for 200 years the government has been putting us down. This congress has opened our eyes.” He said the power of people to galvanise and make an immediate impact was clear. “What this congress has given us is a chance to get people in one place and build something for us, in partnership with all of you in the audience today.”

Read the full article in ReNew 140.