The State of the Environment report has been released, and although summed up as ‘poor and deteriorating,’ it highlights the importance Indigenous knowledge can play in conservation.

The state of the what?

Released every five years, the State of the Environment report is like a report card on how well we’ve been treating the earth here in Australia. It was presented to the Liberal-National Coalition last year but only recently released by the Labor Government for public viewing.

The report is, as you may expect, not good

Australia has now lost more mammal species than any other continent on the planet, and we can expect more extreme weather events, deteriorating coastlines, and further collapse of Australian ecosystems. Incredibly painful news for a bunch of people who enjoy being outside.

‘If we continue on the trajectory we are on, the precious places, landscapes, animals, and plants that we think of when we think of home may not be here for our kids and grandkids’

– Minister of Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek

Indigenous knowledge included in the report for the first time

It does come with solutions. For the first time, Indigenous knowledge has been included in the report, recognising that Australia can significantly benefit from the knowledges of First Nations Peoples, having adapted through environmental change for millennia.

Connection to Country will protect the environment

Led by Meriam/Wuthathi  lawyer Dr Terri Janke, the Indigenous chapter of the report dives into how Indigenous ways of knowing and seeing are essential for meeting the environmental challenges we face.

The report highlights the interconnection of First Nations people and Country, which encompasses all living things, including the environment, languages, cultures and more. It states that empowerment of First Nations people is vital, as improving the health of Indigenous communities will enhance the health of the environment and vice versa.

First Nations people are disproportionately impacted by environmental disasters and the impacts of colonisation continue to raise challenges for First Nations people in caring for the environment. The report further stresses the importance of First Nations’ voices in decision-making and leadership while maintaining cultural and intellectual property rights.

Where to from here?

The Australian government has promised to double the number of Indigenous rangers by 2030, increase funding for Indigenous Protected Areas, and provide $40 million for water projects.

‘These systems of environmental knowledge have been passed down for thousands of generations,’ said Minister Pliberseck. ‘Any modern conservation program should incorporate them.’

And, as the report states, Australia can reap many rewards from ‘growing Indigenous ways of doing, knowing, and knowledge sharing.’