May 7th 2008
Valuing biodiversity is key to its protection says Island's 2020 Summiteer
There were only 1000 Australians invited to the Prime Minister's April 2020 Summit and one of them happened to be a Magnetic Islander. She is Melissa George and Magnetic Times caught up to her to hear about the ideas she took to Canberra.
The Summit was divided into topic areas and Melissa contributed to the, Population, sustainability, climate change, water and the future of our cities stream.
Melissa is a Traditional Owner from Magnetic Island's Wulgurukaba people and is also a Queensland based Indigenous Network Co-ordinator. She attended as an individual, but supported the approach of Northern Australian Indigenous Land & Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA).
The NAILSMA aim is to bring about an Indigenous Culture Based Economy which, according to the Kimberly Land Council's Peter Yu, "supports the cultural business of Indigenous land and sea management, supports the credibility and integrity of cultural transactions locally and across the North, and leads to innovative commercial opportunities".
According to Melissa, "This view is strongly supported by Aboriginal peoples in Northern Australia."
At its core the concept Melissa most wanted to convey is one of recognising that in much of northern Australia there will be resources ranging from mines to agricultural potential to high biodiversity for which Indigenous people will have a say over management. These people, she says, have every right to seek the benefits of cash and infrastructure from mining ventures on their lands as much as they may seek to create economic development opportunities based around stewardship and biodiversity protection that may also present themselves.
"I made the point that not every black fella or traditional owner group want to be rangers and they cannot be dictated to. All opportunities need to be made available."
She then puts a more difficult concept, "If you are serious about protecting Australia's biodiversity you need to determine the value of that biodiversity.
"Most of northern Australia (about 48% ) is Aboriginal owned and managed land and sea so you need to determine the value of that biodiversity in terms of things like conservation and eco-tourism. We need a biodiversity audit which can lead to something like a scheme which is parallel to carbon trading."
But just what could such a scheme entail? One example draws directly from carbon trading. It is the Western Arnhem Land Fire Management Agreement which mitigates the production of massive amounts of CO2 from wildfires in the north. Each dry season huge amounts of grass and other scrub becomes fuel for massive fires.