The Biodiversity Council calls for reform to protect culturally significant species

Posted: October 18th, 2023

Image: Sam Fraser CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

The Biodiversity Council is calling for reforms to include care for culturally significant species and places, including humpback whales and dingoes.

They are asking for the upcoming changes signalled by Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to include the ability for Traditional Owners to list culturally significant species and places to ensure they can maintain their ongoing connection with and care for species, something that they say current policy makes difficult.

First Nations peoples’ rights and interests in land are formally recognised on over half of the country. Traditional Owners all over Australia have deep connections and cultural obligations to care for Country and the important species and places throughout.

Biodiversity Council Co-chief and Yuin man Dr Jack Pascoe pointed to his issue with the current policy, saying, “Our national legislation only provides attention to species that have declined to the point that they are threatened with extinction. This leaves many species and places of cultural importance without significant care.

“For example, species like humpback whales are not covered by the act because they are not considered at risk of extinction. If we wait for things to reach imminent risk of extinction before we conserve them we will have very little left.”

Gareth Carr of the Indigenous Desert Alliance echoed his sentiments, saying, “Many threatened species like Great Desert Skink and Bilby are of huge cultural importance and are the focus of management attention by many Indigenous Rangers and Traditional Custodians, but they are not the only species that are culturally significant.

“Other species like red kangaroos, emu, bustards and bush tomatoes are also of high cultural importance and it would be good to see an equal valuing for Indigenous led management of these species.

“Culturally significant species are subject to the same threatening pressures as other species, ensuring their numbers are stable or increasing is a high priority for Traditional Owners.”

To find out more about the Biodiversity Council and their campaigns, visit their website here.