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Protected areas boost health of citizens
In today’s edition of Cleaning Up The Mess, as we continue to bring you best practices from around the world, we feature part two of a guest column by Australian High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Philip Kentwell who tells us how Australia protects its indigenous areas.
For tens of thousands of years indigenous Australians have looked after their country. By working together with Indigenous Australians, the Australian Government has been able to help look after the environment as well as local communities. To support the efforts of indigenous Australians to continue looking after their country, the Australian Government introduced a special programme called Indigenous Protected Areas. Indigenous Protected Areas director for the Australian Government, Bruce Rose, explains that a protected area is like a national park, set aside from development or agriculture to protect the plants and animals of a particular region.
He said, “An Indigenous Protected Area is one of these protected areas but owned by indigenous Australians.” “When indigenous Australians decide to manage their country for conservation, to protect their plants, animals and cultural heritage like rock paintings, they make an agreement with the Australian Government. “This agreement is called a declaration and the Indigenous Protected Area is established.” Mr Rose said Indigenous Protected Areas covered nearly 24 million hectares of Australia and were in some of Australia’s rarest and most fragile environments.
He added, “Indigenous Protected Areas are a really important way Australians can protect their environment. That’s why the Australian Government supports Indigenous Protected Areas financially through a programme called Caring for our Country,” he said. “But for indigenous Australians the phrase ‘Caring for our Country’ means more than just land management, it also means a deep, spiritual attachment to the land, to their creation beings, to the plants and animals and to their cultural heritage, their stories, dance, songs and art.” Mr Rose says caring for country is also closely linked to community well-being.
“We’ve seen Indigenous Protected Areas provide real benefits in health, education, employment and social cohesion amongst Indigenous communities. “They create jobs for Indigenous men and women doing what they want to do, working and looking after their country in a healthy environment. “Many Indigenous Protected Areas are in regions of high unemployment, so the rangers and managers become role models for their communities.” Mr Rose says indigenous rangers who work on Indigenous Protected Areas receive wide on-the-job training, everything from literacy and numeracy to boat and marine skills.
He said, “These Indigenous rangers also work directly with Indigenous children, transferring their knowledge to younger generations. “The transfer of this knowledge provides opportunities for young people to gain a better understanding of their heritage and relationship to country. This in turn means indigenous children are more likely to want to stay in school and have a positive, active role in their community.” All these outcomes are part of the Australian Government’s commitment to closing the gap of disadvantage between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Closing the gap is part of the Australian Government’s process of reconciliation with its Indigenous people.
This process took an important step on February 13 2008 when then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd moved a motion of apology to Australia's indigenous Peoples with specific reference to the stolen generations. The stolen generations is a term used to describe the children of indigenous Australians who were removed from their families by government agencies and church missions, under acts of Australian federal and state parliaments, until the 1970s. Mr Rudd described the apology as an occasion for “...the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence in the future.” Mr Rose says Indigenous Protected Areas are a great example of Australia moving forward on its promise to close the gap.
He added, “A great example of how Indigenous Protected Areas benefit both the environment and communities are the Djelk and Warddeken Indigenous Protected Areas, both declared in late 2009.
“These declarations created a huge conservation corridor of more than two million hectares stretching across Australia’s Top End in the Northern Territory. “This corridor means Top End rangers can work together to manage whole ecosystems against threats like climate change and feral animals and weeds. “These Indigenous Protected Areas provide jobs for the community and improves the health of people because they are working outside on country.”
To find out more about Indigenous Protected Areas visit www.environment.gov.au/indigenous/ipa.
Join Ira Mathur this Sunday on Cleaning up the Mess, on CNC3 at 10.30 am and 6 pm for a rerun interview as Devanand Ragbir, engineer, and Ramdeo Maraj construction manager tell us how to build green, given that buildings account for an estimated 48 per cent of all green house emissions.
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