Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

World Indigenous Network Conference kicks off

Media release
1 March 2013

Environment Minister Tony Burke today announced the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya as the keynote speaker for the World Indigenous Network Conference in Darwin from 26 to 31 May 2013.

Mr Burke said James Anaya is a highly respected expert in International Human Rights and Indigenous peoples law, and is also a Professor of Human Rights, Law and Policy at the University of Arizona.

Joining Professor Anaya in the spotlight at the Conference, is Twilight star Chaske Spencer, from the Lakota Sioux tribe of America. Chaske will be the Conference Master of Ceremonies.

Chaske was raised on Indian reservations in Montana and Idaho and as an actor is well known for his role as werewolf Sam Uley in the popular Twilight movies. He is a spokesperson for United Global Shift, giving him the opportunity to advocate in areas he is committed to shifting including, poverty, sustainable communities and empowerment.

“Inspiration for this conference came directly from conversations on country with traditional owners in the west Kimberley,” Mr Burke said.

“From its very inception this gathering is owned by indigenous communities.

“Some of the most import environmental work in Australia is done daily by indigenous rangers through the Working on Country program.

“Attracting high profile and passionate speakers as James and Chaske highlights the value the international community places on the World Indigenous Network and is recognition of Indigenous and Local Communities’ land and sea managers’ contribution to protecting the worlds’ environment.”

Melissa George, a Wulgurukaba woman from the Nwalgibain clan in Queensland and Co Chair of the World Indigenous Network National Advisory Group will be sharing the Master of Ceremonies role with Chaske.

Ms George said the Conference will lift the profile of Indigenous and Local Community land and sea managers from across the globe.

“We share common ground in biodiversity conservation, heritage protection and cultural maintenance.

“The way we achieve our goals are similar—at the heart of every decision we make is the future wellbeing of family, community and country.

“The network and the conference are a world-wide first and I’m really looking forward to the opening ceremony, which I’m told is going to be a spectacular cultural event showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers and groups,” Ms George said.

Mr Burke said there has been a huge amount of interest with hundreds of participants from around the world keen to participate and help shape an enduring global network.

“It’s great to see that before the Conference has even kicked off, the online community continues to grow. We’ve received more than 330 responses to our conference call for papers from across the globe including Cameroon, India, Sweden, Venezuela and the Republic of Benin,” Mr Burke said.

“People and communities are sharing their stories and experiences online and it will be brilliant to see them come together in Darwin.

“With the Conference registration opening online today, I welcome Indigenous and Local Community land and sea managers to the World Indigenous Network journey.”

The three day Conference program includes ceremonies, plenaries, workshops and dedicated women’s and youth side streams. The Conference Network Hub will provide delegates with a community space to network and an art space to showcase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and crafts. On the final two-days of the program - 30-31 May, delegates can elect to participate in optional field day trips.

To register attendance at the World Indigenous Network Conference 2013 and to receive updates about the Network, visit: