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First Peoples

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Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT)'s submission in response to the NT Government Economic and Environment Policy Climate Change Discussion Paper (Discussion Paper) and the call for broader consultation to inform the development of the Northern Territory’s Climate Change Strategy.

AMSANT’s submission focuses on areas of interest to AMSANT member bodies and their communities. In particular it focuses on four key areas of climate change: planning, coordination and implementation of mitigation and adaptation plans; direct health impacts; housing; and industry and the economy.

AMSANT recognises the significant impact that climate change will have on the future economy, biodiversity, industry, living conditions, health and well-being of the NT population if aggressive actions are not taken to minimise greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the short-term. There is renewed interest to limit global warming to 1.50C as climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase at this level and get progressively worse at higher temperatures (IPCC 2018). The financial and power usage demands of remote communities, as well as the burden on human and natural resources will test their viability in the future. Despite this, we note that Aboriginal people are inextricably tied to the land and cannot and will not move from country - our member organisations and their communities are therefore in it for the long haul. Those who contribute least to climate change will be among the most affected and will potentially have the least capacity to mitigate and adapt to these changes. AMSANT is particularly concerned about the inequity of projected climate change impacts on vulnerable populations, principally on NT Aboriginal people with poor living conditions. The NT Government (in conjunction with the Australian Government) has an important responsibility of protecting the most vulnerable members of its community from the projected impacts of climate change through mitigation and adaptation strategies that significantly reduce GHG emissions into the future, and meet the ongoing demands to health and living conditions.

Key points:

  • While Aboriginal people are already noticing changes to weather patterns and seasonal foods, including fishing and hunting opportunities, it will be important to engage with Aboriginal people to improve broader literacy around climate change in order to empower Aboriginal people so that they are prepared for and able to engage with this important issue.
  • Unbiased scientific advice needs to be available not only to Traditional Owners but also to the broader Aboriginal community, with the availability of interpreters and cross cultural expertise to communicate the complex technical information.
  • AMSANT recommends the development of a model of heat and dangerous heat situations specific to the NT climate and its population groups, particularly to Aboriginal people.
  • To adequately address the future health needs of NT Aboriginal people due to climate change, we need to contextualise the current health situation in the NT, and extrapolate to where things are likely to progress to. The barriers and difficulties present in Aboriginal health today are likely to persist and grow into the future, but there is room for innovation and for health technologies to ease some of these demands.
  • All public buildings and infrastructure should be designed in a climate responsive manner. The NT’s existing knowledge in adapting infrastructure to our extreme climate makes us well positioned to become a leader in climate resilient design of housing. For example opportunities exist in passive cooling design that provide thermal comfort with limited energy consumption.
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