Our project is focused on innovate pathways to energy justice with Australian First Nations communities. Energy justice is a priority issue for Aboriginal communities experiencing heatwaves of increasing intensity and duration due to climate change. Years of housing and energy policy neglect has led to a situation where most households cannot afford expensive diesel generated power and experience regular electricity disconnection, particularly during extreme heat. Disrupted energy supply compromises safety and wellbeing of households reliant on electricity dependent medical equipment that is (such as respirators and dialysis machines) and safe storage of medicines. The newsclip here reports on the current energy crisis compounding health and social inequities for the Warumungu community in Tennant Creek.
Our team works collaboratively with interdisciplinary teams to strengthen health care systems and determinants of health (including energy and environment) to address inequities between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians. Underlying principles of our work are that projects are place-based and community-driven, centering Aboriginal knowledges, wisdom and experience. We are working with communities in central Australia, on intersecting climate change, health and energy issues.
We welcome and value this opportunity to work with the International Working Group on Intersecting Energy Cultures. We see climate change and energy transitions as opportunities for redress and empowerment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and also for building a shared understanding of kinship with, and caring for, Country as we, in Australia, move towards/into an era of truth telling and treaty, and towards more respectful relationships between people and Country. Climate justice relies on addressing historical and contemporary energy injustices and constructing equitable frameworks for meaningful participation in energy transitions.
Our journey so far…
Reflecting on the beginning of our IEC project, I notice the familiar pattern of a new research journey. The discussion of research possibilities and ideas, the identification of colleagues and community partners, and the decisions that lead to the establishment of a research team. Even at the outset, the building of understanding and relationships within the research team mirror the processes that will follow with community partners. Who am I? What is my history? What do I bring to this research? How do I understand the concepts of energy, art and health? The answers to these questions are the myriad facets of understanding that grow into the relationships. Relationships that will underpin our work and enable us to create and explore and analyse together.
At this stage of the journey more remains unknown than known,
kind of like a koan
or a paradox that sits behind our many questions,
without any clear sense of a possible answer or clear directions.
While possibilities abound, our map we know unfolds in stages
And as a creative collaboration, we’ve only just turned the first pages
Listening and reading local chapters being written in Country … in the land,
in an old story with many beginnings and at this stage no end …
Many of our mob have endured large extractive resource developments on their Country and received few or no benefits in exchange. Recent indications are that the boom of renewable energy will be no different. However, in 2023 there is a confluence of opportunity… new political leadership, a greater focus on renewable energy transition and a national referendum on a long overdue permanent Indigenous voice to Australian parliament (https://fromtheheart.com.au/what-is-a-voice-to-parliament/). Working alongside Aboriginal communities in Central Australia we hope to draw on this renewed hope and create local arts-based, First Nations approaches to strengthen understanding and act on continuing injustices.