Recently Cook Shire Council had requested a meeting with me to talk to them about what Aboriginal Carbon Farming is & how it could benefit the Aboriginal communities within the Cook Shire region.
I met with Mayor Peter Scott, CEO Timothy Cronin, Councillor John ‘Chook’ Giese and Councillor Larissa Hale to talk about how the Aboriginal Carbon Fund has been assisting Aboriginal communities across the top end of Australia.
Mayor Scott was very intrigued with the whole concept of Aboriginal Carbon Farming and showed genuine interest in the idea of Aboriginal people regaining management of their traditional estates and being able to return to traditional burning practises.
Mayor Scott also mentioned that he feels that this could be the answer to help Cook Shire in their Closing the Gap efforts by supporting and encouraging Indigenous-led land management within the Cook region.
All in all, I would say that Cook Shire are not only in support of the work that Aboriginal Carbon Fund is doing, but I must say that I felt a sense of excitement for the unique possibilities that carbon farming could bring to Aboriginal Communities within the Cook Shire region.
I also attended a Cape York Traditional Owner meeting in Cairns which was facilitated by Cape York Land Council.
The purpose of the meeting was to give Cape York Traditional Owner’s a voice on how future business for Cape York Land Council and their respective communities should look.
As a Cape York Traditional Owner, it was refreshing to see that the majority of the group was on the same page and were looking for positive solutions to ongoing issues.
One of the topics that was discussed was the need to find a source of income for each community/clan group that can assist them to move forward and hopefully to break the chains of funding dependency.
I was there representing my clan group as well as the Aboriginal Carbon Fund, so I took the opportunity to mention the unique possibilities that carbon farming could potentially have on the communities in Cape York.
Overall, I feel that this information was welcomed by all and I have offered to arrange meetings with groups should they wish to pursue carbon farming on their traditional estates.
My first trip to Oriners Pastoral Lease coincided with a meeting of the Yam Aboriginal Corporation Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council and the Kowanyama Land Office Rangers; discussing the future of the Oriners and Sefton Carbon Project. I had heard many times before how Oriners and Sefton had been purchased by the Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council in the early 1990’s as an investment on behalf of the people of Kowanyama. So, when the opportunity presented to travel to the property I was more than keen to have a travel out into the wilds of Cape York to see for myself.
Located in central Cape York, the Oriners property is a land of lagoons and water holes that stream with life, fish, crocs and birds. The country is looking healthy though dry as a result of cool burning techniques during the earlier part of the year and very little rain during that period. The dirt roads are starting to get dust potholes.
The Aboriginal Carbon Fund have been assisting the Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council and the Land Office since 2014 to run a carbon project on Oriners and Sefton in cooperation with the traditional owner group. This has brought in a regime of cool savanna country burns during the early part of the year to reduce the potential risk and output from major hot fires latter in the year.
The meeting I attended on Oriners discussed the future of the carbon project to develop clear understanding between the Traditional Owners who were represented through the Yam Aboriginal Corporation; the Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council and my self-representing the Aboriginal Carbon Fund.
The meeting had agreed that having a sound financial plan was important particularly for investing back into the infrastructure on Oriners, so the Rangers have good work area with facilities and access to equipment, so they can function despite the remoteness.
The Kowanyama Rangers are well trained and experience to work in this region and they know what is required to adequately do their jobs. I’m looking forward to my next trip traveling to Oriners during the 2018 dry season to participate in the Carbon reduction cool burns and to learn more from the Rangers about burning and this beautiful landscape.
by Barry Hunter Monday, 23 October 2017
The Aboriginal Carbon Fund (AbCF) is fully staffed by Aboriginal people and we cultivate positive working relationships with a range of associates and project partners. This way of working to achieve Indigenous empowerment is refreshing in Aboriginal Australia. It has led to the development of the Indigenous-to-Indigenous strategy to verify cultural, social and environmental core benefits of carbon projects using a strength based approach by Aboriginal rangers and Traditional Owners.
Sustainable, Aboriginal led economic prospects are rare across northern Australia.
Aboriginal carbon farming is a new industry and the AbCF won a tender from the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection to foster the development of the industry which includes the following key components:
• The establishment of a carbon investment fund with guidance from Baker & McKenzie law firm will enable the direct purchase of carbon credits from Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal carbon farmers for a premium with cultural, social and environmental verified core benefits. What sets this fund apart is the opportunity for inter-generational wealth creation. That is rangers and Traditional Owners should still be able to accrue a benefit in 50 years’ time not just on a spot trade.
It is proposed to have three classes of Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCU) as follows;
- Ochre carbon: ACCU + verified cultural, social and environmental core benefits,
- Black carbon: ACCU + verified social and environmental core benefits,
- Gold carbon: ACCU + verified environmental core benefits.
A national consultation process on the investment fund concept by independent consultants was funded by the Indigenous Land Corporation and fund design workshops are taking place. It is a work in progress and a farmer co-op model is envisaged with broad industry representation. We are open to great ideas!
• The core benefits verification approach acknowledges Aboriginal people as the experts in the indigenous-to-indigenous strategy. The verification framework for the cultural, social and environmental core benefits is being developed in partnership with Caritas Australia who have a wealth of international experience.
Almost all Aboriginal carbon projects have numerous cultural, social and environmental core benefits that can be proven as real, measurable and verifiable. This work can and should be undertaken by Aboriginal rangers and Traditional Owners as it will utilise their skill set and add value to their carbon credits in the voluntary market.
A community reference group is established (join in if interested), numerous presentations given at industry forums and a wide-ranging peer review process providing great feedback. First Nations in British Colombia and Maori groups in New Zealand are also interested in the indigenous-to-indigenous strategy as it does not rely upon external non-Indigenous people.
• The establishment of a new 5-day training course in Aboriginal carbon farming through the Centre for Appropriate Technology Ltd (another Aboriginal organisation).
Many Aboriginal rangers and Traditional Owners involved in savanna burning on their traditional land want a greater understanding of the carbon industry. This training will enable a greater understanding of the industry tools, markets as well as how to independently verify core benefits. This may involve qualitative measures such as ‘pride’ and/or quantitative measures to verify Traditional Owners are employment as rangers. Good video recording techniques to present local stories of working on country will also be taught.
Regional Aboriginal organisations can and should be the hub for training in carbon farming of Aboriginal rangers and Traditional Owners.
An Industry Reference Group is established and 20 letters of support provided by Aboriginal organisations, corporate buyers and industry groups for accreditation purposes.
An EOI to pilot the training course in northern Australia has been released, so if interested please be in contact.
• The establishment of a marketing and social media strategy around carbon farming on Aboriginal lands through working with Essential Media. We still have a long way to go in promoting this new industry to corporate Australia as a means for them to achieve their UN Sustainable Development Goals, Reconciliation Action Plans and Corporate Social Responsibility goals.
Another challenge identified by the AbCF is to encourage all Australian Catholic Schools to be carbon neutral by 2025. We have a warm spirit, the experience and welcome all collaboration to achieve this climate justice endeavour!
The thing that has struck me most living and working in the Northern Territory is how community development approaches in Aboriginal communities are still straight out of the 1950s and lagging behind the empowerment discourse that Indigenous people are exposed to in the international development sector.
Nevertheless, community development through sustainable carbon farming on Aboriginal lands is now a small fire which will continue to grow and be a useful tool in the right hands.
Aboriginal Carbon Farming
Savanna burning is the right people, burning the right country, in the right way.
Core benefits is the right people, asking the right questions, in the right way.
Our work, our jobs, our country…our future!
Whilst I was in Sydney I was asked to visit the Caritas Australia office to give a brief and informal presentation on the work that Caritas has been working on with the Aboriginal Carbon Fund.
It wasn’t a huge group but I feel that only added to the overall feeling of acceptance and understanding in the room.
I was asked to speak about myself and what lead me to joining the AbCF team, I spoke about my connection to country and my unwavering belief in my culture.
As with all AbCF presentations that I have been a part of or facilitated, you can’t help but notice a look of confusion on the faces of those in the room in the beginning, however after a few moments into the presentation you can almost pinpoint the moment when the penny drops and people understand and support the important and ground breaking work we are doing here at the Aboriginal Carbon Fund and in this instance it allowed the wider group of Caritas Australia staff to further understand the importance of the work their fellow team mates Lisa and Carl have been working on and why it has been so important to have them on board.
I feel I had made a positive impression on the staff at Caritas and look forward to meeting up with some of them in December when the AbCF team travel down for the Catholic Youth Festival in Sydney.
A huge thanks to Carl and Lisa for all of their tireless efforts to ensure the work that we do is of the upmost quality, you have both been an amazing asset to have on board.
Recently I had the pleasure of being in Sydney to work with the staff at Essential Media on the marketing and media program for the Aboriginal Carbon Fund (AbCF).
No matter how we look at it, social media is the key to getting your story out to your followers in a quick and effortless manner, so keep an eye out for more stories about the AbCF, the work of the staff and associates and the good news stories from projects that are already running.
As such, I have been asked by the team at Essential Media to write an “Opinion Piece” on the growing number of Indigenous female rangers within the Cape York region and the benefits this has had on their communities as well as their families.
After working with the Essential Media team for three days we came up with a content calendar that will assist the AbCF team to make changes to the way it conducts business through media and social media channels. I have also started work with professional web designers to discuss the look, feel and technical issues involved in redesigning the AbCF website to suit the business moving forward.
By being able to work alongside the Essential Media team we got the ball rolling on media releases and social media content as well as discussing the finer details of organising a Corporate Social Responsibility tour to Cape York Peninsular in the new year.
Thank you to Pete, Monique, Kayla & Law at Essential Media for all your advice and guidance last week and I look forward to working with you all on future AbCF media and marketing projects.
I was invited to return to my Grandfather’s country at Archer Point on the Annan River for a Traditional Owner and Junior Ranger camp. We know this country as Yuku-Baja-Muliku (about 30 mins south of Cooktown).
Whilst on country I participated in many traditional customs, had the pleasure of assisting to teach the Junior Rangers various traditional activities such as spear making, grass skirt making, diving for mussel & cooking traditional food.
At the camp I also had the opportunity to discuss Aboriginal Carbon Farming and the work that the Aboriginal Carbon Fund (AbCF) are doing on the Core-Benefits verification framework. This included the roll out of the expression of interest (EOI) to trial the training package developed by the Centre of Appropriate Technologies (CAT) in conjunction with the AbCF and Caritas Australia.
The whole idea of the Indigenous-to-Indigenous strategy and having the power to manage a project by the community is such an important and ground-breaking idea that I feel it is only going to bring positive life changing outcomes for those involved.
Due to sorry business, there weren’t as many people in attendance as had been planned, however for those that were able to attend I feel that the discussion about Aboriginal Carbon Farming and the Core-Benefits was positively received.
One of the Aboriginal Ranger groups I spoke to have decided that they would like to discuss Carbon Farming further and hopefully set up a Carbon Farming project on their traditional estate. This group have also indicated they would like to submit an EOI to receive training for their Rangers to be a part of this great Indigenous-led initiative.
Whilst this was my first time discussing the work that we are doing at the AbCF, it really solidified for me the importance and the need for this long overdue ideology to come to fruition and I for one am very proud to be a part of this movement.
Expressions of Interest (EOI)
There is an opportunity for an Aboriginal organisation involved in a savanna burning carbon project to trial the new carbon farming training course. A regionally based Aboriginal organisation that can service the carbon farming training requirements of rangers, Traditional Owners, Councils and Aboriginal organisations is a great benefit to our industry.
If interested please be in contact with Mark Bagley (CAT) or the Aboriginal Carbon Fund General Manager Rowan Foley on 0427 013 318
I was invited to say “Kia ora” and participate in meetings of Caritas Partners near Wellington in Aotearoa (New Zealand). The visit was hosted by Caritas New Zealand and brought together a host of partners that provided updates on their specific projects and the work that has been undertaken with Caritas.
The Aboriginal Carbon Fund (AbCF) has been in partnership with Caritas Australia for 6 years, initially supported by funding, the partnership now has developed into a strong working relationship where the First National Program is supporting the AbCF to develop a framework for identifying and measuring the Core-Benefits that result from Aboriginal communities undertaking carbon projects. These Core-Benefits may include outcomes that improve Aboriginal ranger skills, biodiversity outcomes, support for outstations in remote areas, benefits to community well-being for residents and/or supporting traditional ecological knowledge outcomes for younger generations.
During the trip, I had the opportunity to meet with Hikurangi Enterprises which is based in Rautoria north of Gisborne. They are undertaking social enterprise development projects that will assist local Maori land holders derive an income from their lands. These projects include planting Manuka trees for the production of Manuka honey which is found to have application in the medicinal field for a number of diseases and medical conditions. They are also investigating the distilling and marketing of essential oils from native trees. Importantly they are assisting land holders to investigate how they can earn money through encouraging the growth of native bush that can store carbon. There were some good discussions with Hikurangi Enterprises about the learning and developments in the Carbon industry by AbCF here in Australia.
During the weekend of the 19th and 20th of August I attended a Hui (Maori assembly or meeting) that was hosted in a Marea (traditional meeting ground) in Otaki some 50 minutes north of Wellington. This was to be where Caritas NZ would gather their partners to discuss the good works that have been achieved over the past year. After being greeted by a powerful yet spine tingling traditional welcome a ‘Powhiri’, there was a warm greeting and some interesting discussions from all the partners on the good works that have been undertaken in NZ and the pacific. The presentation ranged from elders and youth justice programs, educational Maori emersion language and culture classes. There was a presentation on inter-generational healing classes undertaken in Australia and of course I presented on the work AbCF have been undertaking with Caritas support.
The trip was an amazing experience meeting the great people from Hikurangi Enterprises, from the Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust and Caritas New Zealand. I feel I’m forever indebted to the people I met who were so generous in the sharing of their culture and knowledge which was done so in a warm and sharing manner. Lastly a big thank you to Caritas Australia, particularly Carl O’Sullivan and Lisa McMurray for their support and for organising our participation in the workshop and cultural exchange.