Good morning and thank you for inviting me to the launch of the Ten Deserts project.
Thank you David for introducing me.
I would like to begin by acknowledging and paying my respects to the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, the traditional custodians of the land that we are standing on today. I wish to acknowledge their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region. I would also like to acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people attending today’s event.
I would also like to acknowledge current and past members of parliament here today.
I was delighted to be invited to this event. It’s nice to see so many familiar faces here today, including from my home state of Western Australia.
Today highlights a significant new chapter for Australia’s outback.
As you would all know, Australia’s deserts support an exceptional diversity of plants and
animals found nowhere else.
This includes many threatened species including several identified priority species under the Threatened Species Strategy, such as the Central Australian cabbage palm, the bilby, warru (black-footed rock wallaby), the central rock rat and mallee fowl.
The deserts are also rich in culture – with thousands of years of traditional landscape management by the First Australians.
We have a shared responsibility to look after our exceptional desert landscapes and protect them from serious threats such as feral animals, weeds and habitat degradation.
This project brings hope and opportunities for the conservation of these natural and cultural landscapes.
I welcome the Ten Deserts’ partners’ boldness, vision and ambition. It will build on and extend existing land management activities across what is already the world’s largest connected network of protected areas and Indigenous-managed land. The long-standing, highly successful Indigenous protected area and Indigenous ranger programs have bipartisan support and are recognised internationally.
The Ten Deserts project’s regional activities will address threats to the unique biodiversity of Australia’s deserts.
This is no mean feat, particularly given the scale and vastness of the region – I am told it is the size of Argentina or the eighth largest country in the world.
This project is something to be very proud of. It will be a model for land management that will be shared and celebrated internationally.
I know that today’s launch has been the culmination of much effort by Indigenous groups from across the desert region (and other partners) that have come together to discuss. I commend you for your efforts so far.
I was fortunate to attend the Indigenous Desert Alliance’s Forum in 2016. This forum brings together land managers working on Indigenous land from across the region to share information and discuss matters of regional importance.
The Australian Government recognises the importance of the Indigenous Desert Alliance in building a strong Indigenous voice for the desert – contributing funds to assist with its incorporation as a legal entity. I understand the vision is for the Indigenous Desert Alliance to become the lead for the Ten Desert project following its incorporation.
I welcome the decision by BHP Billiton Foundation to fund the Ten Deserts project. I commend the Foundation for its efforts.
At the heart of this project is the notion of partnerships. We know that in order to tackle the unprecedented challenges facing our environment, we will need to harness the expertise, innovation and flexibility of business and non-government sectors, and work in partnership towards shared outcomes. The State of the Environment 2016 emphasises this.
We know that partnering for conservation across sectors works and can also provide social, cultural and economic outcomes. We see this through the success of the Indigenous Protected Areas and Indigenous Rangers programs. These programs effectively incorporate traditional knowledge with western science and encourage partnerships between traditional owners and other land users to build innovative solutions to multiple challenges.
They provide meaningful jobs and connection to country. They also open doors to other economic opportunities and help create new sources of long-term sustainable income including tourism.
In closing, it is an honour to be invited to this event today. Please know that your work is noticed and highly valued by me and by the Australian Government. This project and its partners will go from strength to strength. I wish you all the best.