Policy Forum Pod

Caring for burning Country

Episode Summary

On this week’s Policy Forum Pod, we ask if policymakers are really heeding the lessons of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when it comes to environmental management.

Episode Notes

Public interest in Indigenous fire management practices like ‘cool burning’ has grown significantly in the wake of Australia’s unprecedented bushfire crisis. But what is cool burning, and what does the attention it has received tell us about how Indigenous knowledge is valued in Australia? On this episode of Policy Forum Pod, Dr Virginia Marshall and Dr Annick Thomassin join us to talk about the impact of the bushfires on Aboriginal people, why Indigenous knowledge should be central to policy-making, and the state of reconciliation in Australia.

Annick Thomassin is a Post-doctoral Fellow at the ANU Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research. She is the primary investigator of the Seachange: Aboriginal marine pathways to social inclusion project, a grassroots, research-action initiative developed in collaboration with Mogo and Batemans Bay Local Aboriginal Land Councils.

Virginia Marshall is an Inaugural Indigenous Postdoctoral Fellow with the ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) and the Fenner School of Environment and Society.

Sue Regan is a PhD Scholar and tutor at Crawford School of Public Policy. Previously, Sue was Chief Executive of the Resolution Foundation, a UK-based research institute focusing on the well-being of low earners.

Policy Forum Pod is available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to podcast@policyforum.net. You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or find us on Facebook.

If you’d like to help with the recovery effort or contribute to firefighting services, here’s how you can donate to bushfire appeals.

Episode Transcription

Sue Regan:  Welcome to the Policy Forum Pod. The podcast for those who want to dig a little deeper into the policy challenges facing Australia and its region. I'm Sue Regan. We're a production of policyforum.net based at Australia's leading graduate school, Crawford School of Public Policy. If you're looking to develop your public policy career, check out our wide range of degrees and short courses. Just go to crawford.anu.edu.au/study and you'll find all information there.

This week on the pod, we're carrying on our special series on Australia's bush fires which continue to burn across large parts of the nation. Over the last week, our special In-Focus section on Policy Forum has published some great analysis from leading experts on a wide range of issues from water contamination to tipping points in the earth system. Do check it out. You can find it at policyforum.net.

Over the last couple of weeks on the pod, we've looked at some of the environmental and human costs of the fires and talked about what ideal and likely policy outcomes might be. But this week, we're going to take a look at how the fires are affecting Australia's Indigenous peoples and what policymakers might learn from first nations people about how to better manage fires in the future. Not far from where we are recording here in Canberra, the town of Mogo on the New South Wales coast, suffered extensive damage in the bush fires. On 31st of December, a blaze tore through the town, leaving it much bit destroyed, five members of the Mogo Aboriginal Land Council homeless and the whole of the UN community was affected and is mourning for their land.

Since the fires, the community has been concerned about several protected Indigenous between Balga and Mumbulla Mountain being wiped out and Indigenous people of the region have begun to raise their voices about the value of cultural burning practices and the need to look after the country. So, today, we want to talk about the unique sense of grief that Aboriginal people feel in the wake of the bushfires and have a discussion about how we can create better policies that take this experience into consideration and which respect the special relationship that Aboriginal people have with the land. To get to the bottom of these questions, we have two fantastic panelists with us in the studio today.

Dr Annick Thomassin, who's a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the ANU center for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research. She is the primary investigator of Sea Change, which is a grassroots research action project developed in collaboration with Mogo and Batemans Bay Local Aboriginal Land Councils and we have Dr Virginia Marshall, who is the inaugural indigenous Post-Doctoral Fellow with the ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance and the Fenner School of Environment and Society. She's also a practicing lawyer and duty solicitor.

Hello, Virginia

Virginia:   Good morning.

Sue Regan:  And hello Annick.

Annick:  Hello.

Sue Regan:  Thank you for joining us today. The bushfires have wiped out homes, taking the lives of people and countless animals, devastating the landscape and the indigenous sites it is home to. I wonder if we can start by really getting your insights on how indigenous communities have been affected by the terrible events of the last couple of months.

Virginia:  Well, I think as an Indigenous one, it's really the silence about what is happening to Aboriginal people across the country that is most telling and this is something similar to when I wrote my thesis on water and the whole media response was about farmers and about pastoralists and about mining and it seems very similar and unfortunate that we only of late, have we been talking about Indigenous cool fire burning but I know, we were both affected in the area that we live, both fires on the north and fires on the south of us that the media outlets said nothing about Aboriginal communities and it was very little on the TV about affected communities. So, I think, the solace that I've seen in water and water rights and the drought –most tellingly – has been silent. So, it's only of late that we've decided to really tune into what we've known for tens of thousands of years about indigenous fire farming.

Sue Regan:  And Annick, let's try and get beyond that silence. What has the impact been on indigenous communities?

Annick:  Well, of course, I cannot give a perspective from an Indigenous perspective because I'm not Indigenous myself but my friends and colleagues at Mogo have been extraordinarily affected by the fires and at the moment, they're trying to come to terms with what happened to them. The community is really strong but there's a lot of trauma and with the discussions I've had with people in the community, at the moment, what happened in Mogo itself and to the family members and things like that but I think with the weeks and months to come when they go back home country and witness the impact of that fires, it's going to be, again, more grief and more devastating feelings really. It's not over.

Virginia:  And I think what you've said to the people that I've talked to through community whether it's Bermagui or any parts of the south coast of Australia is that most Aboriginal people aren't insured so their houses are uninsured. So, where does the money come from? How do you rebuild? And I know this affects also non-Aboriginal people but for Aboriginal people, it's very different on how they actually got to even have a house. We've got the worst health in Australia, we've got the lowest incomes and the lowest opportunities. So, that's really some issue that we should be talking about in the media. How do Aboriginal peoples rebuild because when we talk about the community and I know when I studied sociology, people will understand this, is that we talk about the community but we don't talk about who is in that community.

Virginia:  We're talking about non-indigenous people, are we talking about just in that particular town? Aboriginal people have been in these towns especially in the south coast for thousands and tens of thousands of years and they are not as mobile because their own country as Annick said. So, what happens to Aboriginal people who can't afford to rebuild? We haven't really been talking about that in Australia either.

Sue Regan:  And how do you think the experience of the bush fires is being felt differently by indigenous people compared to non-indigenous people?

Virginia: My heart goes out to all of the people that I've seen on TV whether it's Mallacoota, whether it's other parts of Australia, it's deeply grieving. But for us, it's generational and it spans across, as I said, thousands of years, tens of thousands of years. So, we have the impact as you've pointed out with the sites. So, the sites damage which is irreversible in a lot of areas but you've got to also remember that the ecosystem's itself with all the animals and the plants, that's our medicines, that's our bush foods, our bush tucker. The animals, totemically, how we relate, whether it's the small wallabies, the kangaroos, the echidnas. Those animals are our totems. So, while we might be seeking to have those animals listed as endangered or nearly extinct in some circumstances but those relationships are much deeper and much longer than any other Australian living in this country.

Sue Regan:  And as you were saying the bush fires have affected many communities but I thought we could focus on one for now which is Mogo and I understand, it's the center of the Aboriginal population in that area and as in my introduction, one that has been very particularly badly hit. Annick, I understand you've been meeting with members of that community and rangers. Can you give us a bit of a picture of the situation there now.

Annick:  A very small picture, but the communities seemed like they've been looking after each other a lot because what happened one of the hope of the community of Mogo has been the Mogo Aboriginal Land Council and this has been totally destroyed in the fire. So, it now has a temporary office in the Boomerang Center which is not too far from the center of Mogo and the community gathers there and they've been receiving a lot of donations from everywhere, really, material donations, perishables and also food for the wildlife because I think one of the things that they are trying to do at the moment is teaming up to be able to feed the animals that are left, those who've survived mostly without food. So, that's really another disaster in the making but the community seems strong but what I've heard [crosstalk 00:10:11].

Sue Regan:   Do people feel supported thought at the moment?

Annick:  They felt the love of the attention that they got from people who decided to donate to help the community and everything. At the same time, they are really angry about what happened. I know my colleague, rangers, they've been talking for years to revive the cool burning practices and there's been a lot of hurdles for that. First, the work of the rangers is really not funded enough, some their work is voluntary and the cool burning practices would have been quite beneficial. They couldn't even do it because it's a little bit too late, this season has been too dry, so they couldn't practice it this year. They were planning to start this year to do it but they're doing a lot of work before that like removing weeds, restoring creeks and watersheds and so making country healthier. So, that's where it gets really important and need more support but then that being underfunded and things like that when you see what happened in Mogo apparently hasn't burnt very often, if ever.

Annick: So, it's considered a very green patch of paradise early on and now it's been completely devastated but the family, the community's holding it together but there's going to be a lot of need for trauma support and things like that and probably not just any trauma support, something that is culturally relevant as well. So, I'm not quite sure how much of this is evitable.

Virginia:  Well that's right and I always remember my time in Narooma in the South Coast because I was the instructing solicitor on what was a landmark case, going to be at the time and we saw that when you took witness testimony that it's a very strong fishing community and they have also been devastated by people who then, by Fisheries, been receiving penalties and penalties that are up to $10000 and also imprisonment. So, I think this is really like a double whammy.

The communities are dealing with the way that their knowledge and their practices are penalised such as: customary fishing and that is not talked about in the same way as we talk about these issues with the bushfires and now they've received this, now, the bushfire season that didn't really have to happen and we're also saying from a non-indigenous side with the ex-firie commissioners that wanted to meet with the Prime Minister and couldn't even get an appointment and this is public knowledge and also going through what current fire chiefs in communities have been really putting up with is, why hasn't land and water management and this includes; the fisheries as well, why isn't it valued? Why aren't Aboriginal peoples' knowledges valued? And this comes back to what I say, we need a truth and reconciliation commission to really get down to why we really don't see Aboriginal people as the first Australians and we say that when people greet an aboriginal person and many of us in hearing this today will understand this. They say: “So, what part are you? Well, you don't look Aboriginal, but you live in Canberra or you live in some other township or Melbourne or Dubbo but you don't really look.” And then you get compounded by that as well. So, not only is your identity compounded with these responses but it's also during the bushfire where you could say, if I would have had combined our knowledge with other scientific knowledge because it is indigenous science then we might have had a different outcome and as all the fire chiefs have said currently, they did the back burning, right? Some crazy people out there have been saying," Well, let's have more dams." Well, we know, as a water expert, I know that if you don't have rain, it's no point of having a dam and we've got all the dams that we need at the moment anyway. So, if the government are looking for jobs, please don't build more dams. We can construct other things but it's, again, what does Australia need? Where do we go for that information? First Australians. That's the whole paradigm shift.

Sue Regan:  Do you think the scale of the bush fires will draw more attention to-

Virginia:  It has. It has.

Sue Regan:    Indigenous land management practices.

Virginia:   Absolutely but is it going to be valued? And this is one thing one of my students said when they came away from the National Firestick Alliance conference, and this was a whole combining of community people and non-Indigenous people and when those cool burnings were provided as examples, living practical examples, there were some people that said," Oh. Good. We'll take that knowledge and then we'll just use that in our shire council," but without Aboriginal people and as, Annick's pointed out, you need Aboriginal rangers and they need employment. It's not just volunteering. Aboriginal people volunteer in a whole range of services and bushfire services but that knowledge needs to also have some recognition, when we value people's time, as consultant then we pay them but Aboriginal people seemed so... and I know there's years where they held a barbecue for example and they get all of us there to really suck our brains, to try and get as much information as possible but we're not bought by barbecue these days and that's really an important point.

Virginia:  So that knowledge needs to really have value not only generational value but it needs to have in-kind or monetary value as well. I think that's the important part we need to converse about this as a nation.

Annick:   I think that's a good point because at the moment you see a lot more people commenting, why Aboriginal people are not more involved. We need to return to this. So, a lot of people seem to be supporting Indigenous cool burning and Indigenous knowledge and stuff like that but the thing is, what I'm afraid of is that people don't realise how underfunded it is. It is not only that but the legal and political policy hurdles that they have to go through to be able to do these practices and so I'm afraid that this enthusiasm, if Aboriginal people can't pick it up straight away and prove that this is what's working which will take years because it's been so interrupted and altered. The country has changed a lot with all the damage that has been done by all these developments.

Virginia:  Well that's at Murray-Darling basin, isn't it? It's been changed, it’s been diverted, it's had all of the really important material taken, trees and it's also been hugely silted. So, we've seen these rivers change and where they want to pipe water to the north and the north to the south and Bob Katter was on today about having more dams. So, there're a whole lot of nonsensical issues but the one thing that I think in these two is human rights. We have a whole range of United Nations frameworks out there for climate change and we're really hesitant as a nation to talk about that in-depth. Not just recognise that it's climate collapse and a climate crisis, we need to see this whole perspective of the bushfires in a new light and if we don't and this is going to be the new norm for us. This is it.

So I've said this on the water scale and I said that we will be having a lot of communities without water when I heard the other day, that's a fact. There's an increasing number of I think about 50 communities that are going to be without water and I saw that through the example in California. So, we need to talk about human rights. My drafting of the response for the universal periodic review on the weekend, I finalised that and I saw that, the government's response is that they've got an Aboriginal Human Rights Commission, that's enough. That was their default position on saying," Well, we're doing everything." And by the way, the Australian human rights commissioner, who is now June Oscar, is responsible for all of those other issues, going from intellectual property to any other thing that you can actually list.

Sue Regan:   Is the government showing signs of listening to those challenges?

Virginia:  None. Absolutely not. As Aboriginal people, we know that there's consultations but when those consultations happen, there's nothing done. There's no action and as Annick pointed out and I've been involved in a lot of volunteer projects in West Kimberley for Green Army and also projects funded by the Commonwealth and by the State of Western Australia but the Green Army is gone, a lot of these fundings, as Annick has said, are cyclical. When the governments change, they scraped those things and then they put in a new system. So, six months to a year, is what Aboriginal peoples are used to and you can't get good stuff and you can't get good continuity and mentoring and you can't get communities hard involved in it because we've seen all of this before, decades and decades before and that response is not an intelligent response. We need now to start working together.

Is it one community? Are we part of that community? I don't see it at the moment and I'd like to be because I feel that there are a lot of very good minds here and there are individuals who have good will but as a national conversation and an Australian Government response, there isn't.

Sue Regan:  Let's take a break here. When we come back we'll have a look at indigenous burning practices which we've touched on already and we'll dig into some of these policy solutions.

 

Sue Regan:   Welcome back. I'm here with our expert panel, Virginia and Annick. In part one, we had a look at the effects of the bush fires particularly on indigenous communities but in this part I want to look at indigenous burning practices. What they are, how they help and how they might be incorporated into policy. Over the last few weeks we've heard a lot about the value of cultural or cool burning. Virginia, could you tell us a bit more about this practice.

Virginia:  Well these practices, now, have come to light and as we've talked earlier a lot of these systems are something that Aboriginal peoples are aware of and have been aware of for tens of thousands of years. Now, when we look at those practices, cool burning, it isn't a hot fire. So, a hot fire, in other words, that we've seen on the TV, going right through the under-story shrubs and right to the crown of the trees. So, it's killing off everything because it's so hot and you can see those images of just orange going right up to the top of the trees that is so hot that it destroys everything.

Now, what's happened and people really explain this as a cool burn where you're doing at a time where the wind's got to be right, it's got to also have the right time, it's got to be a little bit of dampness and then you burn on those grasses in a place that you only want to burn in a small area. So, that's the most important thing that those grasses are burnt and it's a cool burn so it'll just go around and take all of the weeds away. It'll take some of those grasses but they'll revive. So, those dormant seeds] will revive but the cool burn doesn't then go unto that hot orange fire to the top of the crowns. So, that's really important.

Sue Regan:   And how does that help us manage fires?

Virginia:   Well, it takes all of the things out that most people know, that are on the ground that are introduced species. So, that's really important to get rid of those in the first place and also for example: Radiata Pines, they'll get burnt completely usually with a Radiata Pine, if you take the top of the crown off that tree, it will usually only grow to that height. So, it's taking away those things that are really important to clear - the weeds for example - and when you look at Bill Gammage's work at ANU where he's actually looking to those archive of materials. It says that all of the land that different settlers saw and observed, that it was a beautiful landscape.

They weren't masses and masses of trees clumped together, it was like a botanical garden and that's what we've got to really hold onto, that we could have and can have with these cool burns and also with water and land management that's taken on with an Aboriginal understanding of how that needs to happen for the ecosystems and those cool burns allow the animals not to be burnt in the fires that we've seen and the koalas just resting being burnt to death in the crowns of those trees but just to take the introduced species away and to clean up that fuel, that light fuel. I know when I've been involved with national parks as one of the first Aboriginal discovery rangers that we were very hopeful. We were very hopeful that this might be a new start but even then, our knowledge wasn't valued.

Sue Regan:  So is cool burning happening today?

Virginia:  Cool burning is happening all across the country. They do it in the Kimberley, they do it in other parts of Australia and Cape York of course has been a point of conversation recently in the news. So, cool burning is a really important part of our cleansing. Cleansing for the ecosystems, for balance and, again, compared to what we've seen on the TV, they're extreme, burning everything in its path. It's just what people are saying is a mega fire but again we haven't come back to why Aboriginal people have this knowledge. What can it actually do for the rest of Australia and why you need to consult widely and why you need to employ Aboriginal people for this really important work.

Sue Regan:   So, if there'd been more cool burning on the south coast [crosstalk 00:25:31]

Virginia:  If there had been more cool burning since 1788 there’d be [crosstalk 00:25:35]

Sue Regan:  Less severity in the fires.

Virginia:    Absolutely. It was because Aboriginal people were seen in that lens and that particular guise that they had nothing to provide and then when individuals acknowledged that Aboriginal people," Oh. They do have laws." And then we saw that with [Nabelco 00:25:51] and [Marulpan 00:25:54] decision and the Yolngu people where the judge, Judge Blackburn said that," I haven't ever seen a system of order and law as I've seen and listened to the anthropological report, in this particular case for the Yolngu people.” So, that knowledge has been around for a long time but we haven't valued Aboriginal people. It's just, get a bunch of us in, have a talk, have a yarn and then see you later and then we develop policy without us and it's usually choosing the one Aboriginal person who has the lowest paid job in that organisation or that department that gets to say that and signs off. So, we've got to change that thinking and that's what we have at the moment.

Sue Regan:  Last Thursday, Scott Morrison met with the nation's peak Aboriginal bodies.

Virginia:  Well, who's that? Peak Body was the first people's congress and that went into administration, that was just left to do what ? And we've seen it before with ATSIC, The Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Commission. Where did all the artwork go? Why was it dismantled when the report said they didn't need to dismantle ATSIC? That was the only platform we had for the international voices and exchange.

Sue Regan:  So, how come, if that type of forum isn't really improving communicational engagement with Aboriginal communities, what might improve that communication?

Virginia:  A total change in national consciousness. Every individual in Australia needs to change in the way that they think about Aboriginal Australia and we need to not be seen as stakeholders and I've said this for many years. We need to be seen as First Nations people in everything and if you're not going to recognise Aboriginal Australia and Torres Island peoples as the First Peoples and I mean with having a legal effect, currently people saying, let's have recognition but it's a non-legal effect, in other words, there's nothing that flows from it that includes legal rights. So, it's just saying," I see you there, Sue. I see you there, Annick." That's it. So, we don't get any inclusion into the water, The National Water Initiative. We've only got a couple of clauses that are discretionary and they don't hit the mark on economic, cultural, or commercial. We understand that, in that case with intellectual property, our knowledges respected and traditional knowledge, they're not protected. It's only protected if it's a new right, a newly developed form or design. So, across the board, Aboriginal peoples have been demoted to the lowest common denominator in Australia.

Annick:   And you know when people now wake up and think, "Oh yes. Indigenous knowledge is going to be our savior," and burning practices and fisheries practices, well, fisheries is a bit more complicated but it's not only this kind of superficial knowledge, that are really important but this comes with an old background that is often dismissed. We need a complete shift of the way we relate to the country itself. It means some shift for how we think about the economy, how we relate to each other. So it's not just looking for a solution or how we need to get these fires for the future and things like that. It's how we grow as a country and change the whole mentality but when it affects everybody in day-to-day life, it takes a little bit more time and more convincing and people will have to also realise, as Virginia said, you go and consult one per cent or few people in the committee often not the right people because it's people who are being passed on this knowledge are selected for specific reasons in the committee.

So, it's not all the committee that shares all the knowledge, so it's very important to respect the political system in the committee. So, this, as well, on the top of the skills and ecological knowledge that people have. So, it's going to be listening to people more.

Sue Regan:   I'm going to really press you here on what you think the practical policy steps might be to, unfortunately, finish this conversation. We've heard today about the special relationship that first nations people have with country, how the fires have affected them in different ways and what we might learn from traditional burning practices and how do we really pull this together into practical policy steps and what might your key recommendations be for government or for policymakers.

Virginia:   Well, the problem is and I've worked in state and federal government that usually the people that are sitting there asking you those questions are non-Indigenous people and what we have to do, just as any university must do, is to have a critical mass of Aboriginal academics and Torres Strait Islander academics. We need to have people in senior positions that can really bring people together and network, collaborate and then talk to the government about policy and then bring those communities in that really need to have their voices heard. If we don't have critical mass, we will not go forward and there's no excuse not to employ Aboriginal Torres Island people but we have systems such as identified positions and we have quotas too for people with disabilities in the same way. If you treat everybody the same, you're treating them with discrimination because if you want to climb those flight of stairs and you are in a wheelchair you have to make those provisions and that's law.

So what I'm saying we need to have that consciousness with really having Aboriginal people in the cent of this conversation - employed, senior that we can discuss. That really is something that is greatly lacking. Policy really needs to be developed. Overtime, we've consulted and we've written a lot of submissions for example with the Murray-Darling Basin Commission and the Authority. Are they over, I think about 450 submissions on the Murray-Darling Basin itself. So, what happened to those 450 submissions by Aboriginal people. Did they get listened to? Well, nothing has changed. All we here about is some states that actually want to vacate the inter-governmental agreement. So, those sort of issues are not getting traction because Aboriginal people aren't listened to and that's the problem. I think it's too early to really have those conversations about what steps to take. We've given a lot of that information, it's sitting on the shelves of university. It's on your computer. A lot of those inter-governmental UN reports from all over the world, from senders of environment, from universities, from private corporations, that information is there but we're not applying it and that's the failure. 

Sue Regan:  Annick, your thoughts on this?

Annick:  I think it's actually what Virginia says, I think it's when you get that critical mass that all of a sudden universities and government departments then have to realise that it's not only having more Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people within these institutions but also having these people really having an influence on how we change these universities and these departments; bring new paradigm in because often what happens, there's more coming in but in the end, it's more or less business as usual because there's this institutional framework that's pretty inflexible and these people are guided by the same policies and same rules and if they are not allowed to make some change to these rules and policies, it will be hard to implement any change. You need to trust people, listen to them and they should have decision-making power.

Virginia:   And we need a treaty.

Annick:   Treaty.

Virginia:  This conversation is happening with Professor Mick Dodson in communities up in the Northern Territory but treaties can be breached, agreements can be breached. I know that as a lawyer but it's important to have an agreement but a conversation before that agreement which means every town in Australia has a dark history, every town. It doesn't matter where you take your finger and drop it on the map of Australia there's a dark side and that really needs to be talked about. That truth and reconciliation needs to happen and it means that there's no retribution, but people need to know and people need to stand up and have their conversations about these issues and I think that would really be helpful. When we go on and we think about those examples, if you're sick, you go to hospital, they don't just bandage up your finger and say," Well actually, I've just had a heart palpitation." You've got to really understand. We need to have that first step and we need to have that conversation.

So I think if we do that, I think it's going to be opening that space and that would be really wonderful for Australia and then maybe Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people would want to celebrate the joint values that we hold together but at the moment we're really fractured. We're fractured Australian society. Even though we've got a lot of love for each other, we're still fractured.

Sue Regan:   We've seen in the last few months a shift, I think, in the public conversation and public awareness about some of these issues. Do you see that and do you think that might lead to greater action in relation to Indigenous nations’ experiences as well?

Virginia:   Well I think it's only at the end of the conversation with the bushfires that we've seen the example of cool burning, of Aboriginal peoples really coming to the fore and discussing that knowledge and small stories on the media about bushfires and how that actually can be understood with Indigenous fire management and that is a positive step, however, don't underestimate the momentum that we need to actually push through to have this as an ongoing conversation. It's really an important highlight but that's not the end.

Virginia:   We really need to take that and build on it and perhaps if we have these conversations more in workshops and conferences and also community consultations that this could actually be driven by the Australian people. We're seeing a 16-year-old girl, Greta Thunberg, has made a huge difference. She's really awakened young people, people at school to say," There's something wrong with this." Climate change exists and I've said, before climate change, signs are settled and we know that young people and old people can make a difference. So we need to hold onto this message and we need to push it. That's the most important thing and if we need to get out there and design a placard and go up there to the National Press Club today, you need to do it.

Sue Regan:  Annick, do you think the shift in public views gives a sign for optimism?

Annick:  Well, I feel like from what I've seen in the media and heard what's happening in the social media, there's certainly some kind of greater awareness and positive feeling with regards to practices like cool burning and things like that. So, I think it's great but as Virginia said, we really need to build on this momentum and also use this opportunity to show how it sits in a broader context and that is also extremely important. I'm really hoping that this disaster will be opening that door where people will finally start to listen. It's a little bit sad that it took that much but it might be a shift in thinking which, that would be very positive.

Virginia:   It would be good for Australia and Australians.

Annick:   Absolutely. Would be good for everybody.

Sue Regan:  Thank you very much for sharing your insights on what is clearly a very important and a topic that we'll be coming back to on the podcast. Thank you, Annick.

Annick:  Thank you.

Sue Regan:   And thank you Virginia.

Listeners, we really enjoyed today's discussion but we want to hear what you thought. If you want to share your thoughts, comments or questions with us, please reach out. The best way to do that is to join our podcast group on Facebook, it's easy to find us just type Policy Forum Pod into the search bar. You can also find us on twitter where we are @APPSpolicyforum that's @APPSpolicyforum or send us a message at podcast@policyforum.net and if you're ready to take a leading role in improving indigenous policy making, you might want to check out the masters of public policy specialization on indigenous policy and development. You'll learn from leading experts at Crawford School and the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University. You can find out more about the program and how to apply at crawford.anu.edu.au/study. 

If you haven't already done so, you might be interested in donating to bush fire affected communities, every cent can help. We will leave a list of organisations you might want to donate to in the show notes and if you like this week's episode please subscribe and tell your friends to do the same. You can find Policy Forum Pod on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts from. We'll be back next week with another Policy Forum Pod but until then from me, Sue Regan, cheerio.