First Nations exchange: Our first meeting

Published: 4 Feb 2019

Our first meeting, fresh off the plane from Sydney to Vancouver, was an exciting sign of things to come. We were welcomed by an esteemed group of First Nations leaders – Dave Porter, Frank and Kathy Brown, and Wade Grant – alongside senior conservationists from Vancouver. We shared a generous meal, which Dave and Frank explained was an important part of the local practice of welcome.

As we each talked about our experiences in turn, Dave encouraged the Aboriginal leaders from Australia to be forthcoming about the success of Australian Indigenous land and sea management in meetings with Canadian officials. We have a lot to learn from each other, he said, and through the many similarities between the history of First Nations peoples from Canada and Australia, we can also bring a lot to the future of our nations. Dave’s encouragement offered the Australian delegation license to not be modest about the success of Indigenous rangers and Indigenous Protected Areas on land and sea country across Australia.

There was a really important message for us in that. In both the environmental and Indigenous affairs sectors, there’s a fundamental principle that policy should be flexible according to the context of where it is being implemented. That means avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach in favour of models that can be tailored according the social, environmental and economic needs of a place and a community.

The Indigenous ranger and Indigenous Protected Area models do just that. Indigenous rangers work on a huge diversity of landscapes, from remote and vast deserts, to Tasmanian islands, to pockets of hinterland rainforest on the outskirts of cities. And the jobs are administered in a variety of different ways that are designed to work best for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

Dave’s comments recognise the depth of the contribution of David, Denis and Dean, the Aboriginal representatives from Australia, in sharing experiences with Indigenous land and sea management despite coming from a different country. He showed us how, despite very different contexts, the input from Australia has so much value for Canada, where recognition and support for Indigenous land and sea management continues to grow.

It was a great way to kick off our visit to Canada – we owe a big thank you to the traditional owners of Vancouver for welcoming us and for the nourishing words (and food!) to set us in good stead for the meetings ahead.

Read background about the exchange here.