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The Kimberley Roundtable concluded in Fitzroy Crossing last Thursday with participants and organisers agreeing the two day event an important step towards protecting the Fitzroy River and the wider Kimberley region.
Following the first day's focus on the natural and cultural values of the Kimberley, and in particular the Fitzroy River, day two saw participants divide into groups to analyse six key industries in the Kimberley: art and culture; conservation; tourism; land management; agriculture; and pastoralism. Groups were asked to consider what they felt were necessary principles and actions within these industries fundamental to protecting both environmental and cultural values of the Kimberley. Almost all groups identified consultation with Indigenous people on development issues as a key principle.
In the afternoon sessions, ACF's international guests Mr Ian Gill and Ms Leah George-Wilson of Ecotrust Canada and Ms Grazia Borrini-Fayerabend of the IUCN, provided international perspectives on Aboriginal economic development in north west Canada, and global trends in protected areas management.
Mr Gill gave an overview of Ecotrust Canada including how it operates, its funding base, its key areas of work, in addition to examples of some of the successful Indigenous businesses that Ecotrust is supporting. Ms George-Wilson, Chief of the Tsleil Wuatuth Nation in British Columbia, gave an inspiring account of her peoples efforts to overcome poverty by establishing small to medium businesses in which their traditional lands and culture is central tenant to success (for more detail see Ecotrust story).
Ms Borrini-Fayerabend told the audience that at the international level, the conservation movement over the last 5 years has made huge changes to conservation policies and practices to ensure Indigenous people and their social and cultural values are enhanced, not harmed by conservation. These changes are gaining wider acceptance in develop countries such as Australia and Canada and offer Indigenous people a way to protect biodiversity, strengthen their culture, and build a sustainable economic base.
Feedback from the presentations was very positive; creating strong interest in both the Ecotrust concept, and the increasingly prominent role Indigenous communities can play in protected areas management.
At the conclusion of the Roundtable, participants asked that the goodwill, energy and commitment created over the last two days, not be wasted. Actions need to follow on from the Roundtable that involve key organisations such as ACF, create greater awareness about Indigenous and conservationists efforts to protect culture and country in the Kimberley.
For the Roundtable organisers, the next step is to collate the feedback of participants and develop a Roundtable statement that represents the concerns and wishes of TOs, Indigenous organisations, and conservation groups. This collaborative statement will be used as a unifying tool to stave off plans to pipe or ship water to Perth or establish unsustainable agriculture in the region. Roundtable organisers will also produce a report on the proceedings and outcome in coming months.
The Roundtable has allowed ACF to build stronger relationships with Indigenous partners in the Kimberley, as well as underline ACF's commitment to protecting the region. The presence of ACF's President Ian Lowe and Executive Director Don Henry, as well as Northern Australia Program staff (Coordinator Rosemary Hill, Community Outreach Officer Justin McCaul, and Program Assistant Sue Hayes) also added to this commitment. In his closing comments, Don Henry asked guests to acknowledge the generous support of the Poola Foundation and The Christensen Fund towards the Roundtable.