A NSW Government website

Creating opportunities to heal Country through carbon farming

Carbon farming projects can provide a pathway for First Nations communities to care for Country and get paid for it. Carbon farming projects reduce carbon emissions by either storing carbon in soil or vegetation or by avoiding emissions that would have otherwise gone into the atmosphere. Projects can create new jobs, strengthen traditional knowledge and practices, protect culturally significant species, and heal Country. 

There are barriers to participating in carbon markets that are unique to First Nations organisations and communities. Cultural values and community decision-making is at the heart of Indigenous communities’ processes. This makes the decision to participate in carbon markets more complex as organisations and groups must respond to community needs and aspirations for Country. 

Hands holding seeds
Native seeds collected at Wirraminna Environmental Education Centre, Burrumbuttock, Wiradjuri Country. Photo: Joy M Lai

The Net Zero Land Carbon on Country initiative facilitates knowledge sharing and access to carbon markets for NSW Aboriginal landholders. The team has developed a suite of resources to support communities in their decision making. 

The resources outline the importance of embedding the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent and Indigenous and Cultural Intellectual Property rights within carbon contracts and throughout the life of the project. These principles are vital to meaningful participation and ensuring First Nations Peoples retain the rights to their knowledge, culture, stories and practice. 

NSW Aboriginal Land Council has connected the team with many Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) across NSW. The LALC forums have provided an opportunity to discuss the fundamentals of carbon and the ways community aspirations for Country can shape carbon projects. Attendee feedback highlighted a strong desire for “economic development opportunities and environmental repair” and a greater understanding of “the benefits of carbon farming and associated pitfalls”. 

Yarkuwa Indigenous River Rangers holding plants
Yarkuwa Indigenous River Rangers care for Country and work to foster and pass on traditional knowledge. Pandyil Farm, Wamba Wamba and Perrepa Perrepa Country. Photo: Joy M Lai

‘Partnering with NSW Aboriginal Land Council and Local Land Services has been instrumental to delivering information to NSW Aboriginal organisations and communities,’ says Ava Kirkby, Project Officer, Net Zero Land team.

Community engagements took place on Wiradjuri (Bathurst), Gumbaynggirr (Coffs Harbour), Birpai (Port Macquarie), Jerrinja (Culburra Beach) and Kamilaroi (Tamworth and Copeton Dam) Country with up to 47 Local Aboriginal Land Councils participating. 

Feedback has been positive, with communities keen to learn more about the opportunity. The next phase of the initiative will be to invest in projects on the ground. Local communities will lead and co-design these projects, ensuring First Nations landholders have control over their carbon rights. 

Visit carbon for Aboriginal landholders for more information.