First Nations’ communities have been effectively managing the lands and waters, and adapting to natural climate changes, for thousands of generations. Since European invasion and colonisation, the Western approach to natural resources management has been the dominant one.
The high spiritual and cultural toll of colonisation is like to be further exacerbated by man-made climate change through the further destruction of cultural sites (for example, as a result of increased bushfires), the disappearance of spiritually important species (such as totem animals), and of plants and animals used for traditional food, medicine and other cultural practices.
First Nations’ people may also be experience disproportionally high physical heath impacts due to the increase in heatwaves, emergency events, and poor air and water quality.
With so much at stake, it is vital that we invest in the capacity of local First Nations’ people to care for and heal Country in a changing climate. Our region is fortunate to have the largest population of First Nations’ people in Victoria, with thousands of significant cultural sites. With their deep intergenerational knowledge and ongoing connection to Country Aboriginal knowledge has already been critical in supporting climate adaptation actions, particularly in the natural resource management area, such as cultural burning for bushfire risk reduction. We need to provide further authorship to Traditional Owner groups and First Nations’ people living in the region to identify and implement their own responses to climate change. There are also many opportunities to learn from and enable the application of traditional ways of working on Country, while respecting Aboriginal ownership of that knowledge. The groundwork for how we might best approach this is integrated through this plan.
Below is a summary of objectives and priority actions in the Climate Ready Plan that support caring for and healing Country in a changing climate.