Ambassador Kennedy: I don’t know what further ado would look like after that, but thank you very much, Gordon. [laughs]
I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today, the Wadjuk people of the Noongar Nation who have cared for this land for generations – and I want to thank especially Ingrid Cumming for that incredible welcome.
Your song and story really reminds us of the importance of connection to Country and to generations past. And that’s something that I, also carry with me every day. So, it’s, it’s – it always means a lot to me and how powerful that is here.
I want to pay my respects to all the leaders past, present and emerging and all the many Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people that are here today. I have learned a great deal already from my time here with First Nations people who are so generous sharing their wisdom and experience and I hope to learn so much more.
I want to thank the Perth Asia [USAsia] Centre for having us here and Professor Flake for that introduction. Maybe we can go everywhere together, and you can introduce me. [laughter]
And thank you Governor Dawson for the welcome yesterday and the visit, and for your presence here today, the Vice Premier, Lord Mayor and other distinguished guests. I – I’m so honored to serve here in Australia as President Biden’s Ambassador, not just because of our shared history, but because there’s no more important alliance in the world today.
This is my second trip to Perth, and I had such an amazing time here, that I really was so happy when the Secretary decided to come visit, because you can really see the future from here. Western Australia plays a critical role in our security partnership. Just last week I visited HMAS Stirling Naval Base and the SAS at Campbell Barracks. Western Australia is also critical to our shared economic future – together we need to develop secure supply chains and critical minerals necessary for renewable energy. Our space scientists at Curtin University and NASA are collaborating on satellites and autonomous technology for the next generation of space exploration. And I saw ocean conservationist who are working with American colleagues together at UWA on nature based solutions to build climate resilience.
Our people-to-people ties have something for everyone – just this past weekend I met an American choreographer working with the Western Australia ballet, UFC fighters here from Las Vegas, Dolly Parton devotees at the Fringe Festival, and I went to the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert here at the Stadium.
So in the past six months across Australia, I have seen firsthand the close partnership between our governments, the close friendships between our peoples and a sense of common purpose as we take on the challenges of our time – most critically, climate change.
Under President Biden, the United States has embarked on the world’s most ambitious plan to accelerate our transition to a green energy future. He’s committed us to reduce our emissions by 50% over 2005 levels by 2030, launched the Global Methane Pledge, increased funding for adaptation and resilience globally, tackled super-pollutants, committed to build 500,000 EV charging stations and incentivized the purchase of electric vehicles. Australia is our partner in this effort – we are going to need to work together. There is huge opportunity. There are countless jobs and we need to work together to create a healthier, cleaner world for our children and grandchildren.
No one knows more about how to do this than communities who have been honoring and caring for the land for thousands of years. First Nations people in both our countries must be at the center of this effort. On my first weekend in Australia, I had the chance to meet Indigenous women at the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land, who explained how they care for Country – moving between the ocean and the land with the skies as a guide. Last week in Fremantle, I met members of the Indigenous Desert Alliance who described traditional manage – fire management practices and the larger role their members want to play in developing policy solutions. Though long overdue, this kind of knowledge and expertise is being recognized and integrated into government efforts in both our countries and is already having an impact.
That’s why it’s such an honor to introduce a woman I greatly admire – a woman who has inspired all Americans with her leadership, her legislative skill, her life experience and her commitment to justice for Indigenous people.
Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland comes from a family committed to public service. Her father was a decorated hero in the Vietnam War and her mother worked for more than 20 years in Indian education in New Mexico. Deb grew up spending summers in the tradition – in the traditional cornfields farming with her grandfather on the Laguna Pueblo. She was the State Democratic Party Chair before becoming a Congresswoman in 2019. Secretary Haaland is the first Indigenous person to serve in the U.S. Cabinet.
The Department of the Interior manages 200 million hectares of public land, about one fifth of the United States, with responsibility for energy management, drought and wildland fires, national parks and wildlife refuges. The Department also has a trust and treaty obligation to the 574 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, representing communities of 2.5 million people.
It’s no secret that over the course of our history, government policy towards Native Americans has been marked by betrayal, cruelty and mismanagement.
Now, Secretary Haaland is making it her priority to give Indigenous peoples a greater voice, greater visibility, and greater power. As both the United States and Australia seek reconciliation from a history of injustice towards First Nations peoples, we are fortunate to have Secretary Haaland to lead us forward. It is my honor to introduce her now. Please welcome Deb Haaland.
Secretary Haaland: Thank you, to Ambassador Kennedy, for that kind introduction. And thank you to the Perth USAsia Centre for hosting today’s discussion that is so important for Australia, the United States, and the entire planet.
Hello, everyone! It is such an honor to be here with you today and thank you to those who are joining us online.
Before I begin, I would like to join Ambassador Kennedy in acknowledging the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation as the Traditional Custodians of the land we stand on.
[Remarks in Keres.]
My name is Deb Haaland, and I serve as the 54th Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior under President Joe Biden.
I am so proud to be here in Western Australia, as the first Cabinet Secretary to visit in over a decade.
We all have lived experiences that we bring into this work. For me, some core perspectives are that I nurtured my child as a single mom; I’m a public servant, a marathon runner, and I was raised in a military family.
My dad was a third generation Norwegian-American, and my mother’s family can trace its heritage back 35 generations in the United States, state of New Mexico. I’m a proud member of the Pueblo of Laguna, an Indigenous community that has called the Southwest United States home for millennia.
I am so thrilled to be here in Perth and visiting this beautiful country.
Like many Indigenous communities around the world, much of my identity reflects the land my people come from.
Over millennia, my ancestors used traditional knowledge and practices that were passed down through generations of people who learned to survive and thrive in the high desert landscape.
They migrated to the Rio Grande Valley in the late 1200s, which makes my 35th generation distinction a proud part of my biography.
My ancestors used their knowledge to manage and escape drought, to feed their families, to care for the earth, and to coexist with the land, water, and wildlife that sustained them.
I think it’s fair to say that, even to this day, no one knows my homelands better than its original stewards and their descendants.
As a child, I was lucky to have some of this wisdom shared with me.
Living in Mesita – our small village on the Pueblo of Laguna – I spent many days with my grandfather as we tended our cornfield. While we hoed weeds and picked worms off each ear of corn, he would tell me the history and stories of the land.
He taught me how the rain and snow that coated the mountains fed our river, which fed our cornfield, and, in turn – fed us.
In that cornfield, he taught me how our actions are connected to the land, and the land to every single person.
Like my grandfather, my dad made sure my siblings and I experienced nature as much as possible.
Whether it was a hike through a rolling mountain range or a walk across a sandy beach, I constantly saw the beauty of this earth and the countless reasons why we must protect it.
These lessons continue to inform the work I do at the Department.
They taught me that our relationship with nature must be reciprocal, and that the land and its offerings are gifts that we must never take for granted.
As Secretary of the Interior, I lead the federal agency tasked with – in many ways – stewarding the United States’ direct relationship with the earth.
The Department oversees 400 mil – 480 million acres of U.S. public lands, which is over two thirds the size of Western Australia. Along with federal waters, the department oversees the energy development, conservation, and wildlife management policies that impact these vast and irreplaceable spaces.
Additionally, we uphold what we refer to as the federal government’s nation-to-nation relationship and treaty responsibilities with 574 sovereign Tribal Nations – the equivalent of First Nations here in Australia.
At one point in time, the Department I now lead was tasked with either exterminating or assimilating Indigenous people like me – a painful history that our two countries intimately share.
I am the first Cabinet Secretary who brings the trauma of surviving federal assimilation policies to the decision-making table.
As Secretary, I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me, who survived those painful pages of our history so that I could be here today.
With so much responsibility for the health and well-being of the land and people, our Department is well-positioned to help address the greatest challenge of our lifetime: the climate crisis. But to do that, we must work across the globe to find collaborative solutions.
Intensifying wildfires, historic droughts, disastrous flooding, and disappearing wildlife threaten the futures and national security of every country on earth.
Our countries are both experiencing the devastating impacts of a rapidly changing climate – and have already created a model of collaboration to meet that challenge head on.
The United States assisted during the Black Summer bush fires of 2019 and 2020 by sharing wildland fires [firefighters] to stop the blaze, just as Australia did for our 2018 fire season.
Thirteen times in our history, our countries have come together to help each other fight these fires. We owe a great debt to those who put their lives on the line and those who give the ultimate sacrifice to protect our communities.
Today, both our countries are experiencing or bracing for yet another season of devastating wildfires.
We cannot deny that this is the new reality.
Climate change is impacting us all, and it will require all of us – using every tool we have – to address it.
This means creating and strengthening partnerships to meet the moment together. Thankfully, our countries can be a model for international partnerships around the world.
Our collaboration literally spans decades.
Our governments are working together to secure essential components of our clean energy future – from critical mineral data and mapping to offshore wind – that will strengthen important supply chains and support good paying jobs. We’re advancing the breakthrough industries like offshore wind development through scientific knowledge sharing that is informing essential regulatory frameworks.
As we address drought and water management concerns, we benefit from sharing experiences and information on many issues. From improving dam safety and drought resilience to assessing River Basin supply, we can bolster our resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.
Since entering office, President Biden has unleashed a historic all-of-government approach to building a clean energy future, uprooting and addressing environmental injustices, and responsibly conserving the lands and waters that sustain us. We’re doing this while ensuring marginalized and historically forgotten communities benefit from this effort.
Many countries have established goals to address the climate crisis. And we should all give Australia a hand for your passage of the 2022 Climate Change Bill that outlines greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets of 43% from 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero by 2050 – excellent job!
President Biden has also put forward an ambitious contribution under the Paris Agreement to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions between 50 and 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
We know that nature is our ally in the fight against climate change and that’s why we are investing in the restoration and conservation of our public lands and waters to help meet our climate goals.
In the United States, we have centered this work in an initiative called America the Beautiful – a decade-long challenge to conserve, connect and restore 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 through voluntary and locally led conservation.
To help meet this goal, the United States is leveraging an essential yet globally unutilized – underutilized, excuse me, tool to address our interlocking climate and biodiversity crises: Indigenous-led conservation and co-stewardship partnerships.
I am here to tell you that not only is this work possible…
…it is necessary.
And it’s already happening across the United States alongside dozens of sovereign Tribal Nations.
Through Indigenous-led conservation and co-stewardship initiatives, the United States is creating opportunities for the original stewards of our country’s lands and waters to participate in how those lands and waters are managed.
What is critical here is that we’re putting words into action. And the exciting part is that much of what we are doing can be replicated for a more equitable and climate-resilient future worldwide.
Last year, we announced the re-acquisition of 465 acres, or almost 190 hectares, at Fones Cliff, a sacred site on the east coast in Virginia, to the Rappahannock Tribe. I had the honor of celebrating this acquisition with Chief Anne Richardson, the tribe’s leader as we explored their ancestral homelands.
As we took a riverboat tour together, the chief explained to me the importance of this land to the tribe which was one of the first human encounters to European colonizers. While, eagles soared overhead, she described how meaningful it would be for the tribe to share their Indigenous knowledge and storied history with our country. Her words were a testament to just how impactful our conservation work is for present and future generations.
Through the agreement, the Tribe will draw on its Indigenous knowledge and practices to better manage the area’s habitat, which is a globally significant nesting location for resident and migratory bald eagles.
The Tribe also plans to expand its river education program, which conveys traditional river knowledge and practices to young people and their surrounding communities.
The results of this transformative approach to conservation are already being felt, and each of us stands to benefit.
As many of you know, the United States holds a vast network of public lands and waters. Conserving these iconic landscapes and their inherent ecological benefits is essential to reaching our climate goals.
For centuries, Tribes have been excluded from the management of the ancestral homelands they were removed from. Together, we are changing this reality.
The Biden-Harris administration celebrated a historic co-management agreement between the Department of the Interior and the five Tribes of the Bears Ears National Monument. The monument is a culturally rich and recreationally diverse region, comprising nearly 1.4 million acres, over 550,000 hectares, that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
The five Southwestern Tribes – the Hopi Pueblo, the Navajo Nation, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Pueblo of Zuni – each have cultural and ancestral connections to the monument’s iconic buttes and the thousands of sacred sites that dot the landscape.
Through this historic agreement, the Tribes will participate in and apply their Indigenous Knowledge to the long-term management of the monument, which has suffered natural and human-caused damage from drought, erosion, looting, and high visitation rates.
When I visited this sacred site on my first trip as Secretary, I could feel the power of the earth beneath our feet. It was clear that this was a place we must protect – and that the Tribes whose ancestors built intricately laid stone homes on the sides of cliffs, harvested the land and lived their best lives according to the seasons must participate in this work.
These Tribes now have a path to apply the knowledge and conservation strategies that they developed over generations. This irreplaceable guidance will benefit us all.
Centering Indigenous knowledge also means empowering Indigenous communities, supporting their subsistence lifestyles, and honoring the trust responsibility the federal government has to sovereign Tribal Nations.
In June of last year, the Department announced the successful transfer of fish production and staffing at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery to the Nez Perce Tribe in the state of Idaho.
Since 2005, the hatchery has been jointly managed by the Department and the Tribe. Each year, it produces millions of steelhead, spring Chinook, and coho salmon – fish that are culturally significant to many Tribes.
When I visited the hatchery to celebrate this transfer, I saw its importance to the Nez Perce people, whose ancestors maintained fishing villages and harvesting traditions that honored the cycles of the fish and the Clearwater River.
Witnessing this historic transfer was something necessary and pure.
Through the full management of the hatchery, the Tribe will nurture and cultivate the fish that have sustained their people with knowledge incurred over millennia.
This knowledge is integral to our country as the Tribe and surrounding communities adapt to the growing impact of drought across the United States.
These agreements are among 20 that have so far been signed during the Biden-Harris administration. And we have 60 more that we’re working on.
But the United States is not acting alone. Australia is also making important headway toward this shared goal.
Just as my ancestors cared for their lands, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have care for the lands that sustains communities across this country. Here in Australia, members of the Queensland Indigenous Women’s Ranger Network are leveraging Indigenous knowledge gained over tens of thousands of years to protect iconic and threatened ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef. By merging Indigenous knowledge of the environment with modern tools like drones, the Indigenous Rangers take a holistic approach to protecting the reef by monitoring coral change, forest fires, and land degradation that threatens imperiled species. Last year, these Traditional Custodians were awarded the 2022 Earthshot Prize for their work to protect this culturally and spiritually significant region. This prestigious award is recognized across the globe. This global recognition will allow Indigenous Women Rangers to expand the possibilities for conservation work everywhere.
As I often say – there is much to be gained when we respect and integrate Indigenous knowledge into our collaborative conservation initiatives.
Many of the challenges we face today – a warming planet, the loss of habitat and wildlife, dying coral reefs – these could have been lessened or completely avoided if early colonists had valued the stewardship practices and environmental wisdom that Tribes had cultivated over thousands of years.
As Secretary, I have the distinct honor to travel to and visit Indigenous communities across the United States who maintain their inherent connection to the land – a connection intrinsic to their cultures, languages, and ways of life.
The Tribes of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, for example, view the salmon, whales, birds, and bears as their own relations. These people were the sea bearers and navigators of this region long before colonizers ever set foot on our continent.
When you are of the land and the creatures that depend on it, you tend to it with future generations in mind. If we feed and nurture the land, in return, it will take care of us.
This is a lesson the entire world can and must benefit from if we want to save this planet for our grandchildren.
Now – there are as many cultures as there are tribes. We each celebrate life in different ways, our belief systems, practices and traditions differ from one another.
And the challenges we face as a planet are vast and varied, and we all have something to contribute. Our solutions should be informed by thousands of years of observation, interaction, and intimate understanding of our planet’s natural systems.
By centering Indigenous-led conservation, we can leverage the diversified and locally informed knowledge of the communities who have always stewarded the land and the waters we all depend on.
But using Indigenous knowledge cannot happen in a vacuum. It requires a fundamental shift in how Indigenous communities are treated, and how the tragic errors of our nations’ pasts are remedied.
This work requires all of us. It requires that every country and leader learn from and build off the progress of others toward our shared goal. It requires listening and learning. It requires action.
The future our children – the future that our children deserve, is not out of reach, but we must act quickly to save it. And we must do it together.
Thank you so much to Ambassador Kennedy, to the Perth USAsia Centre, and to each of you for being here today.
We – I think we’re going to do a few things and then we’ll turn to the Q&A portion of today’s event. Thank you very much.
[Remarks in Keres.]
Professor Flake: Thank you so much, Secretary Haaland – you moved me.
We are honored today to be able to present with you – to you – a, a gift from Noongar Wadjuk country. I’d like to introduce Madison Byron, who’s a Wadjuk Noongar woman from Perth. She grew up here and in, in – and down south as well. She’s currently a student of Medicine at the University of Western Australia. And Madison will present Secretary Haaland with a message stick. She’s also an artist in her own right. Message sticks traditionally are passed between visitors to communicate within country. This particular message stick represents the six seasons of the Noongar seasons here in Perth. We’re actually in second summer right now. So without further ado, Madison would you please present that to Secretary?
Thank you, Madison. Secretary, I’ll pick up here for now. And I’ll ask you to sit down there in the middle if you would kindly. And I’ll ask Ambassador Kennedy to come join me up here on the stage. We’re not entirely inhospitable.
Now we’re going to have a question [and] answer time. So all of you will have a chance to eat. Now you’ve been very patient in terms of process, except for we’re not overly hospitable to our guests. We’re going to work during the course of breakfast, so… Ambassador Kennedy, if I could get you to join me on the far side there.
Many of you were kind enough to submit questions in advance. We ourselves had a lot. We’re – have a lot of content to go over from both Ambassador Kennedy’s remarks and Secretary Haaland’s remarks, but it’s my great honor to kind of just engage in a little bit more of an in-depth conversation. And hopefully tease out some of the, the, the content in the speech and the issues that will be a keen interest to our community here in Western Australia.
Secretary Haaland, you concluded with a clarion call for us to, to listen, to learn. And then to act. And your entire speech was replete with examples of where you
had been doing that in your current position as, as Secretary of the Interior. I wonder if you might give us – two or three – kind of specific experiences that you’ve had, where you have been consulting with Native communities with the intent to learn from their long experience, and that that has led to some action?
Secretary Haaland: Yes, absolutely. Well, of course, first, I’ll say that this climate crisis, we’re a global community, now – right? And so the climate crisis is affecting everyone, worldwide across the globe. So it’s up to all of us to act to do something about it.
In the United States, of course, we’re so proud of President Biden’s leadership. He made tribal consultation a priority of his administration. So all of us, it’s an all of government approach. We’re all required to consult with tribes on issues of importance to them and issues that matter to them. So naturally, because we manage the nation’s public lands – that was all Indian country at one time – that was all Indigenous land at one time. So it, it, a is important that we are consulting with those tribes whenever decisions are being made.
I mentioned to you that Bears Ears National Monument and the Dworshak Fish Hatchery, are two – are two iconic places that we have consulted with tribes and that they are now leading the efforts on how to manage those lands. We also, were able to give the National Bison Range – the National Bison Range that we conveyed to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, so that they can now manage the National Bison Range. It’s just incumbent on us to make sure that we’re – that we’re consulting. You don’t know what tribes are thinking unless you talk to them, unless you bring them to the table, and have a conversation. And sometimes those conversations might go on for years. They might go on for a few months. It, it, it matters. You know some of our northern tribes – tribes in Alaska are facing the impacts of climate change more heavily than tribes in other areas. Subsistence tribes, tribes that rely on salmon and other animals to – to live from year to year. They are facing a lot of challenges because of climate change, and because of – and because we’re not working together. So, making sure that we’re having those conversations, having actual consultation with tribes about subsistence only, hearing what they – what solutions they offer, and then acting on those. So, I think that will absolutely be ongoing and we’re proud to, to have those conversations every time we have them.
Professor Flake: Well, let me extend my personal thanks for the tremendous leadership you showed on the Bears Ears Monument. As I mentioned in the introduction I was – I spent the first 20 years of my life on the Navajo Nation. And you would think that living here in Perth – as far away as we are – and then 25 years in Washington – I’d be cut off from that. We spend every day bemoaning the horrible things about social media – but there’s some good things. The good things are for the last 20 years, I’ve been more plugged into Navajo politics and weather and sports and advocacy – here in Perth – than I ever was when I lived there as a child. And that’s just because there’s so much more of a community and a good part of that has been working for a long time to see the preservation of that monument. So thank you for your leadership there.
I did mention that you are now in the– the farthest city on the planet on land, away from Washington, D.C. So in your international consultations, you can say that you’ve gone to the entire span of the globe. You can’t get further away. But I won – I wonder if I might turn that first question back to what Australia in particular, and the United States might be doing together to kind of advance the priorities that you set out. I’ll start with you, Secretary.
Secretary Haaland: Oh, sure – well, of course. Thanks for the example. Yes – you know – reaching out to the farthest point away from the United States – I’ve been to a lot of farthest points – when I went to Alaska I was in the northernmost point of the United States in the village of Utqiagvik, Alaska. And now, I’m way down here.
So, so I guess you could say that all those conversations certainly are affecting the way we do business. But, but – I’m so proud of the work that Australia is doing. And I mean, look, I mentioned in my remarks that we’re – that we’re coming together on fighting wildfires, for example, making sure that – you know – those adept at adaptive efforts are moving forward and working together to do the things that we need to. So, I think that the U.S. and Australia have an excellent partnership. We’re happy that with respect to Indigenous issues that we’re also moving along – you know, when I when I flew in to both Sydney and Perth, the flight attendants gave a land acknowledgement when we landed at the airport. That was very impressive to me. That means that, that, that collaboration is on the – on the top– you know– top of mind of, of, of everyone here. So I think with
that being said, we’re going to work together to make sure that we can move forward. It’s about the future generations and I see that here as well as in the United States.
Professor Flake: Thank you, Ambassador Kennedy, if I can pull you into the conversation. This is your second visit to Perth and you – I’ve been following you closely on social media and you’ve been everywhere.
Ambassador Kennedy: [laughs] Oh, do you do anything but go on social media? [laughs]
Professor Flake: Well, I had – long plane rides where – plane rides used to be – you know – a, a place where you can retreat from the world, but no longer. There’s WiFi on every flight. And so I had – I kind of, know that you were at Austal shipping – in the shipyards – and you had great visits to – including – I didn’t, I didn’t catch the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, which is impressive. But I did catch one thing you said in your opening remarks – and, and you said it about Western Australia, that you can see the future from here. And obviously that’s something that we believe ourselves – given industry and stuff like that. But I was curious as to – given the tremendous work that you’ve done on Australia-U.S. relationships more broadly – in the priorities that you’re pursuing out of Canberra – the, the particular role that you see for WA, priorities for us as a community here and supporting your agenda?
Ambassador Kennedy: Well, I think – just keeping with the theme from today, obviously – climate change is a huge priority for both the Biden-Harris administration and the Albanese government. And certainly, so many of the solutions to this crisis and so many of the technologies that will allow us to transition to a green energy economy are being developed here. I mean, Australia – you know – back in Sydney invented the solar panel many years ago, but here now we are exploring critical minerals together. And those are absolutely essential for wind turbines, for the batteries, for all of that. And no place has more or more sophisticated or more ESG higher standards for mining those. And so it’s, it’s – that is one huge effort.
The incorporation of Indigenous practices is another area where I think this state is leading. There’s a real effort to, to learn – as I mentioned, I met the members of the Indigenous Desert Alliance last week who are eager to participate in policymaking in a more active way. So, some of these efforts are well developed. Some of them are kind of coming up. And the most important thing I think, is that students here are taking this on just as they are in the United States. So we need students to pursue the scientific and technological disciplines that are going to be involved in this transformation.
There’s a huge amount of opportunity. Western Australia already leads in obviously mining and resource development. But there’s so much more that’s going to be needed. And that’s a huge opportunity for both our countries. Under the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Act – that Secretary Haaland is largely responsible for implementing – we are looking to develop these resources with trusted partners, and we have no more trusted partner than Australia. So, it really goes across the board and in that area, and then of course, we work together in our security partnership as well. And this area is going to be critical to that.
I was fortunate to visit some of the military personnel last week and – who are just working with American counterparts – just closely and have been for many years – and I think that, that kind of partnership and dialogue really keeps us all safe.
Professor Flake: Thank you, I appreciate your focus on critical materials. Many in the audience will recall that last October, the Japanese Prime Minister, Kishida Fumio, visited Western Australia. A, and–a, we at the time made the observation that when his predecessor – and one of his predecessors – Prime Minister Abe Shinzo visited Perth in 2014, Perth was just a venue. They stopped here briefly, then went off to a mine site to focus on the continuing importance of iron ore. But for Prime Minister Keisha, Perth was the destination. And it really was because of critical materials, rare earths in particular, lithium, solar, hydrogen and – and one of the conclusions that the Japanese Ambassador at the time – your counterpart in Canberra – Yamagami Shingo said – he says that Perth is the geo-strategic nexus of the Indo-Pacific and the economic nexus of Australia-Japan relations. But a large part of that really is those issues that you focus on – critical materials. Secretary Haaland, rare earths – critical materials in general – these are future oriented industries, but they’re largely on lands where the Department of Interior has a really important role to play. And given your purview over the – I think one-fifth of the United States – right? How do you balance the industrial mining material needs of the future with the Indigenous communities and the knowledge in that process, particularly around critical materials?
Secretary Haaland: Right. So for our part, of course, it’s balancing that against Indigenous – you know – connection to the land, but also protecting critical habitats for animals and plants and, and those ecosystems that, that keep us all alive. So we understand how important critical minerals are to our future. If we want to transition to a clean energy future, we have to make sure that we have the, the critical minerals to make that happen. And so, I think with, with, with moving that issue forward, it’s also balancing the need for that against the need for us to have a sustainable future – right? There are places to mine and there are places not to mine.
There – in the United States – we pride ourselves very much on protecting workers and making sure that worker safety and all of – and all of these issues are also taken care of. So those are the conversations that I – that I talked about that need to happen right? You don’t rush into something – you know – drill now, think later.
It’s – it’s making these decisions very carefully, making sure that we are taking into consideration those Indigenous connections to the land, but also protecting our habitats. Because we’re nothing without nature. We’re nothing without our animals. We’re nothing without our, our plants. We’re nothing without these ecosystems that keep us alive. So, we’re – we feel very confident about the work that we’re doing.
I oversee the United States Geological Survey. It’s a vast group of scientists who, who study these things. They know where these minerals are. They know – you know – they know how to, how to measure things in the soils and the air and the water. So, it’s relying on the scientific data and making sure that we’re plodding forward in a very thoughtful and, and database way. Taking all those things into consideration is how we get to the future with clean energy.
Professor Flake: Thank you. Ambassador Kennedy, you referenced the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States. That may not have been a popular phrase – we don’t focus on the individual things – but it’s had a really big impact on critical materials. I was in California for the last four days – at a Sunday lunch dialogue on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework – and a heavy part of that focus was on the implications of this Inflation Reduction Act, which provides hundreds of billions of dollars in support for developing clean energy technology in the United States, but in particular, with trusted allies like Australia, with which the United States has a free trade agreement. I’m wondering if you might want to address the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act and how it’s pushing on Australia-U.S. cooperation?
Ambassador Kennedy: Well, I think, as you mentioned, there’s $750 billion, which will be incentivizing the development of these new technologies and partnerships and certainly to transition to the green energy economy. And it’s really placed the United States back in the lead, in terms of of leading this transformation and encouraging others to join. It – it’s a U.S. effort and – but I think it provides great opportunity for Australian and U.S. companies to work together in partnership, both here and in the United States to develop these technologies to produce these minerals. But also, it’s a global effort. It, it provides incentives for climate adaptation in this region – in the Pacific – by providing incentives to do things like that. So, I think that the United States under President Biden is really obviously trying to, as the Secretary says, support American workers, to develop new industries, and, and work with partners and allies to do that. Because that’s really our greatest strength – are the relationships that we have and there really isn’t a closer or a more critical one than Australia right now.
So this region in particular will benefit enormously from that. I met yesterday with a number of people who work in the mining industry who are eager to develop facilities here, also in the U.S. – work together. They will be – you know – I think this will really jumpstart a lot of those efforts – which are – we’ve known what we should do for a long time. We’ve been eager to do it, but now we have a real incentive to speed it up. And so I think that, that’s going to be transformational and no place is going to benefit more than Western Australia. Let me say that one more time…
Professor Flake: No place will benefit more than Western Australia– it’s been– it’s already in my tweet, it’s gonna go out [inaudible].
Ambassador Kennedy in your first few weeks in the country, as Ambassador, you really caught a lot of people’s imagination. Number one was your visit up to the Solomon Islands in the commemoration around the events surrounding your father – PT-109. So this other thing you did, that probably didn’t get as much attention – but was very, very significant – I think to the issue we’re discussing today was your visit to Garma, in your first week. You’ve now had the advantage of visiting all throughout Australia. I presume you’ve had a chance to consult with and talk with First Nations communities here. Would you want to share with us some of the lessons you’ve learned or observations you’ve had, as you traveled around Australia and had a chance to meet with the community?
Ambassador Kennedy: Well, I still have a lot – Australia is really big – so I still have a lot of places to go. And so, I would say that my education is just very much beginning. But I think going to Garma so soon after I arrived here in Australia really was a very meaningful experience for me personally – and my husband – but also framed my entire tenure here because I felt like I was starting – sort of had the chance to kind of go back to the beginning and then begin.
And so, I think that the people that I met there are so committed to providing the kind of education and training for the students. I visited a school which is – has the Elders in the classroom that are teaching in both languages and the students are now – have been selected to go to compete in a robotics competition in the U.S., which is really fantastic.
And, a, and, then also to visit the art center up there and to see really the sort of – one of the, kind of really iconic – works of art. It’s hanging in the chapel there. And go down to the, to the ocean, because at Garma – really – the festival is held sort of on a meeting ground and I didn’t realize how close it was to the ocean and then to see the kind of connection between the sea and the land. And then it was also the place where they launched space – NASA rockets – so I think it really brought it all together for me. And then the Prime Minister was there with this historic announcement on the constitutional referendum. So, I felt like it was really a kind of a past and present, future-oriented visit, which I felt really fortunate to have experienced.
Professor Flake: Beautiful – thank you. Secretary Haaland. I mean, your presence here alone is part of the question that I’m answerin – asking. But obviously, as you mentioned in your remarks, there’s as many peoples in many cultures as there are tribes. You have a particular purview over the many tribes and tribal lands in the United States, but your role as Secretary of Interior is taking you internationally. The issues you work on – climate change – you gave a heavy focus on, in remarks – is obviously of great interest in Australia. It’s [of] great interest in the United States. It is particularly [of] interest in the islands of the Pacific. I’m wondering if, if there are some, some commonalities or collaboration or particular threads that you’re finding – as you – given your particular historical role – are finding, as you find Indigenous or First Nations peoples in other countries where – that there’re common points or areas of cooperation or ties between them on the issues that you’re working on.
Secretary Haaland: Yes, absolutely. And especially because the United States is a Pacific country – a Pacific Ocean country. We have – we’ve had like these long-standing ties between our countries, these islands, the – and it’s up to us to make sure that we are – I mean, look, as I mentioned in my remarks, this is up to all of us. We’re not just going to leave this issue to – you know – to one person or one country. It’s, it’s – we have to act globally together.
And as you mentioned, we’re all connected right? We can get online and see what – you know – if I’m back in the United States – I can see what you’re doing all the way over here in Australia in a blink of an eye. So, we use that technology to connect about the things that matter to us. There was nothing more than I would love to see then Indigenous people from Australia and Indigenous people from the United States getting together and talking about these issues – talking about the lands that are important to them and how we go about protecting those lands.
You know, in the United States, we made a lot of really bad ecological decisions. When we – because we didn’t consult with tribes. You know, we had – we had the, the Dust Bowl that some of you may have known about. It was you know – they plowed up the Great Plains. It killed off the buffalo to try to get rid of the Indigenous people, when all they had to do was ask the Indigenous people to give lessons on how you would steward that land. It took decades to, to come to terms with that – with those decisions. And so, we – you know – we learned that if we get together and talk about these things, all of us stand to learn something that we didn’t know.
So I am – I think that – you know, when you’re talking – when you’re talking to people whose – who have learned things from generations and generations and generations ago, that knowledge being passed down. It’s, it’s tested – right? That knowledge has been tested time and again, and we can rely on it. And we do – we use Indigenous knowledge so much in the work we do.
I was up in Northern California at the Redwood National and State parks. And the tribe – the tribe came and they actually had this– they were having this conversation about how – you know – how this effort went to preserve the streams – giving fish – you know – shaded areas where they could swim, where it kept the water cool, right? Having trees that went across the, the streams and rivers to give fish shelter. Understanding how, how these systems work and, and doing your part to remedy the – you know – the past infractions we’ve had certainly are a testament to how we can move forward.
Yesterday in King’s Park, we were talking about this tree – there was this tree there that had died. And they said, you know, the practice was to cut these trees down. But now we realize that we should leave these dead trees standing because birds will make their nests in these trees. So, so – right? We don’t – you know – we as humans don’t – we don’t always have the right answers, but we need to seek out those answers from people who know and understand what those answers are. There’s a lot of things that we don’t know, but collaborating and talking to one another, and certainly getting input from folks who have been handed down knowledge about our lands for millennia will help all of us. So, so I’m, I’m excited about that. I’m excited to bring those issues to the forefront. I’m really honored to be the first Indigenous person in a President’s Cabinet in the United States, because that means that President Biden, who is leading us all – and has been a – I mean – the, the work that he has done just in his first couple of years – has really been phenomenal. He’s putting climate change front and center
and making sure that Indigenous knowledge is also front and center. So, I think, I think we’re in a good place. This is the new era for Indigenous people around the world. And all of us have to embrace that.
Professor Flake: Let me say, I’ve been very impressed by the caliber of the questions that are submitted by you – in the audience – as you prepare to come to this event and the thought you put into it. I might wrap-up. We’ve got time for maybe one final question – one that just a little bit more difficult. But I think really important for – for us, learning – and obviously the United States– one of the most moving moments for me and your speech is when you talked about the significance of now leading a department which had the responsibility for perpetuity – so many – for perpetuating so many of the wrongs that were wrought on, on your ancestors and on Native Americans more broadly. That would probably be true of many departments. Depending on the issue and focus. I wonder if – the questioner from our community asks – kind of what bureaucratic difficulties are you facing in your efforts to kind of support Native communities? And then from that, what are – what are the lessons that are to be learned? Regardless of where you sit in government, in your responsibilities, to be able to kind of reach out, overcome history, overcome bureaucratic difficulties, to, to, fully solicit and give voice to the First Nations people either here in Australia or the United States?
Secretary Haaland: Right. So the Department of the Interior used to be called the Department – like the, the native name – we have the Bureau of Indian Affairs – and my assistant secretary’s here with me today – Bryan Newland – a former president of his tribe and the Bay Mills Community. And [I’m] very honored for him to lead the Bureau of Indian Affairs, making sure that we are upholding our trust and treaty obligations to our nation’s Indian tribes.
But the, the Indian issue – the Indian issues used to be housed under the Department of War. And so clearly, that’s – that kind of said it all, right? You know, one of the things we started was the – this boarding school initiative in, in our department. It, it’s, it’s to, to really bring to life the terrible issues that were affiliated with stealing children away from their communities and sending them to boarding schools in our country. Come to find out after we started working on this, that there is a lot of intergenerational trauma that is connected to that era in our country’s history. Boarding schools. There were other assimilation policies that worked to get Native Americans off of their lands and out of their communities and into, into mainstream America. A lot of my relatives for example, were raised in Long Beach, California because their grandparents were, were shipped there to be plumbers and electricians and, and – you know – my grandfather, he spoke like five languages. He was a musician and a, an artist and an athlete. And, I mean, now if we had someone like that – a kid like that, in our midst – we’d make sure he went to an Ivy League school– you know, Harvard or Yale. Back then it was that you can learn how to work on diesel trains or you can learn how to be a plumber or an electrician. It wasn’t– they didn’t want Native Americans to actually move into these cities and become leaders. They wanted them to just be the workforce.
And, and so – I think that – the main thing that I think we need to do in our country, is to foster some healing. There’s a lot of healing that has to happen. And if you don’t, if we can’t come to terms with the horrible way that we treated our Indigenous people – there’s not a – there’s not a real path forward. And so, in traveling around the United States working on this boarding school initiative, allowing people to come and get on a microphone and talk about their experiences or the experiences of their parents or grandparents. Sort of like, getting it out into the open. Shining light on the issue. It– it is really, I think – helped a lot of our country to understand what it is that we’ve done wrong and to work to remedy those things. Right? I think, for any – for any country to have a chance at really moving forward we all have to heal. It’s not just my grandmother who was stolen from her family at eight years old and taken to boarding school or my grandfather for that matter. But it’s, it’s somebody who never – who can’t – you know – claim that. That like all of us are being affected by essentially the sins of our past. So, I think the healing of a country is difficult, but it’s one – it’s a, it’s an effort that I think a lot of people can embrace. And because they know that it will just make us better in the end. And I think just being able to understand that history and – you know – wanting to embrace it to make things better. It’s going to be good for all of us.
Professor Flake: Thank you.
It is a great honor to have had a Secretary of the Interior who has responsibly not just for the healing of the land, but as she put at the very end, tremendous mission for the healing of a country and people as well. Let me particularly acknowledge once again, the tremendous leaders we have here from our First Nations community here in Western Australia. Former Minister Ken Wyatt, honored to have you here as well as the other Elders from the, the, the lands upon which we meet here. We’re grateful to have you with us.
I trust– like for me, this wasn’t just a normal morning policy speech. I trust this is one of these speeches that will kind of sit with you as you think about it. And we think about the unique challenges that we have here in Western Australia, and how in some respects, they’re not unique. That we have partners in, in a free and open democratic society, like the United States that is wrestling with the same things and as we wrestle together– we’re better for that collaboration. In that regard. I’m greatly honored to have been able to host today, Secretary Deb Haaland [and] Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.
I, I thank all of you for making your time this morning. I’d like to extend particular thanks to my wonderful team at the Perth USAsia Centre – relatively short notice for a beautiful event here. And, and let me just note very briefly – the, the Embassy and the Consulate here – Consul General extraordinaire – it’s been merciless with the schedule. So they’ve got a very busy day today. Thank you, Siri. [applause]
You, you get applause for merciless – I’m not so sure about that. But, but they’re– the delegation is going to take a couple of pictures at the back. But they’ve got to move relatively quickly. And so I appreciate your forbearance as we try to get them on the way to where they need to go on behalf of the Perth USAsia Centre. Thank you all for coming. Thank you for your time. Thank you particularly to Ambassador Kennedy and Secretary Haaland.