Over hundreds of years, Indigenous Australians have been told what others think is best for their Country.
We, the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation, are setting out to change that narrative.
We don’t want to tell people how to manage their Country.
We want to listen to what they want.
We want to understand how they want to achieve their aspirations. And we want to elevate them so they can achieve their own goals.
But to do that, we are asking Indigenous Australians to engage with us.
We are inviting all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the nation who have ideas on managing their Country to engage with us through the National Indigenous Land and Sea Strategy process.
Indigenous Australians can take part in the process in whatever way suits them – through a written submission, by calling a hotline, completing an online survey or attending one of the more than 40 in-person consultations we’re holding across Australia and the Torres Strait islands.
In whatever way Indigenous Australians want to talk to us, we will listen.
Over the last 27 years, the ILSC has assisted Indigenous groups with the return and management of Country through land and water related property rights.
We have returned 6.4 million hectares of Country to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations.
We have funded a wide range of projects, from aquaculture projects to ranger stations to health services to commercialising native food, projects that are designed to build local agency and contribute to the social, environmental, cultural and economic outcomes that benefit all of Australia.
For those not familiar with the ILSC, we were established following the High Court judgment in Mabo (1992) and the passage of the Native Title Act in 1993.
Recognising that a large portion of Indigenous Australians may not benefit from the Native Title Act because they would be unable to meet the requirements of the Act, the $2 billion Land Fund (now the Land and Sea Future Fund) was established to provide the ILSC with secure and independent funding for it to assist with the contemporary and future
needs of Indigenous Australians.
Importantly, the NILSS will set the direction of the ILSC for the next five years; it will provide advice about how we will work alongside Indigenous Australians to meet the growing demand for Indigenous-led development across the vast territories owned and managed by Indigenous people.
The engagement goes beyond the NILSS in its scope and, I hope, will continue once the NILSS has been tabled in Parliament.
Engagement on the NILSS is designed to be a kick-start to an ongoing genuine conversation between the ILSC and Indigenous Australians, a resetting of the relationship between us and our stakeholders.
Australia has entered a new phase of its journey where its First Nations peoples are increasingly recognised and included in our collective society and our economy.
This phase, the ‘post-determination’ phase, is an important one to get right.
Today, Indigenous rights and interests cover 51 per cent of the Australian landmass (much less over water) and this is projected to grow to two thirds by 2030 as more Country is recognised as being Indigenous owned under Native Title, Land Rights and other negotiated processes.
We are seeing increased activity and interest in Indigenous assets. Cultural assets such as traditional knowledge and native foods, and more tangible assets such as land that is suitable for renewable energy projects.
Indigenous Australians are increasing their presence across a number of important industries, and more and more are starting their own businesses with a view of connecting to Country, but also building sustainable businesses.
It is the ILSC’s job to support this growth in a way that is led by Indigenous Australians and to ensure that the ILSC is able to meet this future growth.
The first step to achieving this is engaging with the development of our NILSS.
It is an opportunity to have a genuine conversation about ideas, aspirations, challenges and opportunities for returning and managing Country.
We want to know how we can work together to make the most of these opportunities and face these challenges.
- Joe Morrison has Dagoman and Torres Strait Islander heritage and is the Group CEO of the ILSC.