Pastor Ray Minniecon is a Kabi Kabi and Gureng Gureng Senior Traditional Owner from Australia — at COP26 with the Indigenous Peoples Organisation.
His story was shared in the COP26 daily news, ECO. With his permission, we want to share his powerful words with you too.
Words and views expressed by Ray Minniecon.
Photo courtesy Better Futures Australia
Can you be shocked and not surprised at the same time?
It’s one thing to hear the term ‘climate colonialism’ and it’s another to see and feel it up close. It literally oozes here out of every plenary, every action room, nearly every side event and is propagated by governments, corporations, and I’m sorry to say — CANI members alike.
The tragedy is not just the continued violence against First Nations Peoples at this COP — a continuation of the colonial project reinforced by the almost complete marginalisation of our voices, as bad as that is.
It’s walking around and seeing so many people working so hard to find a global solution to this existential problem, when First Nations People’s hold the wisdom and solutions if only non-Indigenous voices, government, corporate and CANI alike would lower their voices, step back, and allow us to have a seat at the table and lead.
"If only non-Indigenous voices would lower their voices, step back, and allow us to have a seat at the table and lead."
My First Nations brothers and sisters occupy a crowded pavilion. A space so tiny and cramped but so emblematic of the marginalisation and disrespect awarded to First Nations Voices.
In this tiny room, harrowing story after story of dispossession, colonisation, desecration of Country is told. The stories are the same all over the world. Climate change and its impacts on our homeland, on our mother earth is genocide for our people.
Our ancestors are in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the mountains, the animals, the trees. To destroy them is to destroy the memory of our ancestors. Our creation stories tell us how to look after Country as care takers, and our creator has a way of waking us up when we are doing wrong.
This has been the case since Rio. We are still crying out to be heard, and white people wonder why more progress hasn’t been made.
For my people — the oldest continuous living culture in the world, 100,000 years of caring for Country is being destroyed less than 250 years.
The Australia pavilion showcases mining giants Fortescue and Santos. Not a single Aboriginal voice is seen or heard. Terra Nulius — the lie that Australia was uninhabited when invaded, is alive and well, and undermines our self determination just as it works to undermine the success of this COP. Australia’s mantra is that faith in technology will save us. It’s a lie.
"The Australia pavilion showcases mining giants Fortescue and Santos. Not a single Aboriginal voice is seen or heard."
It’s not an international climate negotiation, it’s a trade show.
This COP is first and foremost a failure of Indigenous participation and until this is fixed, a safe climate won’t be achieved. No new data, better science, more deft negotiations will achieve in time what First Nations people have learnt about the protection of our Country and passed generation after generation since the beginning of time.
Our issues, concerns and solutions have been completely sidelined and ignored. We demand a seat at the table. Climate action starts with climate justice — a Peace Treaty between First Nations and the coloniser also ends the war perpetuated against mother earth.
This is not about being anti-development. We don’t subscribe to this ‘white’ binary choice. It’s about the application of the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent underpinned by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It’s multinational corporations that must shout for and justify a seat at the table.
The same international governance and legal system that invaded and colonised First Nations Peoples across the world is playing out right here at this COP. Little has changed. No matter how hard you try, the solutions won’t be found if the foundations for these negotiations are based on injustice, dispossession, colonisation and violence. COP is just living out colonisation in another form.
In Indigenous thinking and philosophy we walk backwards into the future on the footprints of our ancestors, who have shown and taught us so we do the same things they have done for millennia. They show and teach us how to look after County. We are in harmony with the earth and each other. Western science is flawed because it works to recreate the future based upon profit, greed and competition — the root causes of the trouble we are in now.
I came here so I know what must be done at COP27. I plan to organise not an Indigenous pavilion in a small corner of a huge venue, but a First Nations Embassy so that finally, and in the nick of time, First Nations wisdom and solutions cannot be ignored.
"At COP27 I plan to organise a First Nations Embassy so that finally First Nations wisdom and solutions cannot be ignored."
This content has been published by an agreement between ACF and Pastor Ray Minniecon. Further use of this material infringe that agreement and the rights of the Kabi Kabi and Gureng Gureng people. Please do not reproduce this content without the permission of Ray Minniecon.
Header image by Freya Cole/ACF