The State of the Environment Report 2021 has been released, showing that the destruction of Indigenous heritage is occurring at an unacceptable rate against the wishes of the Traditional Custodians.

“The State of the Environment Report is a shocking document – it tells a story of crisis and decline in Australia’s environment,” said Minister for Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, vowing that now is the time to take action.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Act) requires a report on the state of the environment to be tabled in Parliament every 5 years. It is a comprehensive assessment of the state of the Australian environment, analysing environmental pressures, condition and trends and management effectiveness. The report doesn’t address policy responses, but aims to shape policy and action; influence behaviour and assist in assessing our interventions as stewards for the Australian environment.

An Indigenous co-author model was in place for the first time, ensuring Indigenous knowledge is used to inform decision making in caring for Country.

The report states that the overall poor state of Country and connection to Country has a negative effect on Indigenous peoples’ wellbeing, and that the environment is poorer because of the lack of Indigenous leadership, knowledge and management.

The report states that access to clean healthy drinking water for Indigenous communities remains below standard and is seen as poor.

Environmental changes are affecting the abundance and distribution of culturally significant native plants and animals and threatening the persistence and application of cultural knowledge and people’s cultural connections to Country and Indigenous wellbeing.

Indigenous people are rich in land assets, for example, Indigenous Protected Areas make up almost half of the National Reserve System, but they are poor in terms of access to finance and other critical support to manage their Country.

The report was completed in late 2021 but held back by the previous federal government until after the election.