Renewable Projects need to protect First Nations land and culture - Solar Citizens

Renewable Projects Need To Protect First Nations Land and Culture

Recent news headlines have shown the destructive potential of mining project operations on Aboriginal land and cultural heritage sites [1]. Renewable projects, like large scale solar and wind farms, are however not exempt from also potentially causing harm to Aboriginal land, and disregarding First Nations cultural heritage and ongoing connection to country.

In January, news broke of the destruction of Aboriginal artefacts during earthworks development of a solar farm on Wiradjuri land north of Wagga Wagga [2]. Investigations found that the company responsible for the destruction commenced works prior to obtaining an Aboriginal heritage impact permit. Despite destroying hundreds of Wiradjuri stone artefacts they were only issued a $1,500 fine. 

First Nations people have been the custodians of this land for over 60,000 years and land remains a central part of maintaining cultural practices for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

Renewable energy projects should not come at the expense of First Nations land and culture. Strong national heritage protection laws are necessary to ensure renewable projects do not cause harm to Aboriginal land and guarantee Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the power to care for their country and protect sacred sites [3].

When considering the enormous potential benefits of renewable energy in Australia, developers and renewable energy supporters also need to consider the potential impacts of projects on Aboriginal land and work with Traditional Owners to ensure cultural heritage is safeguarded. Solar Citizens stand with Traditional Owners across the continent and aim to see a sunny future where the benefits of clean, affordable energy are experienced by all without coming at the expense of First Nations peoples and their ongoing connection to country.

[1] BHP reports damage to Aboriginal heritage site near Pilbara iron ore mine, 23rd of February 2021, ABC News

[2] Solar farm developer METKA EGN fined $1,500 for destroying hundreds of Indigenous artefacts, 29th of January 2021, ABC News

[3] 'Sacred Land not greedy hands': Traditional Owners urge stronger heritage protection laws, 25th of March 2021, NITV