By Callan Morse
Rowan Foley, a Wondunna man of Fraser Island’s Badtjala people, has used his extensive knowledge to help build a world-first carbon trading platform for Indigenous people.
Foley is the founding chief executive of the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation (AbCF), a not-for-profit organisation that has developed the world’s first Indigenous trading platform of environmental commodities.
In 2010 Foley, a former ranger who’d undertaken roles in national parks for more than 20 years, including time as park manager of central Australia’s Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, became AbCF’s founding chief executive.
He and fellow founding directors Kwementyaye ‘Tracker’ Tilmouth, David Ross and Allan Cooney identified a future in carbon farming and its benefits for First Nations people.
“We could see that there was an opportunity here for Traditional Owners to look after country and make a dollar,” Foley says. “People could see that in the future there would be something there and it was something worth working towards if we went about it the right way.”
Fast forward 12 years, and the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation is an industry leader in creating community prosperity for Indigenous people through carbon farming and the ethical trade of carbon credits.
The foundation offers a suite of services, some of the first of their kind, that have positive environmental, social and cultural outcomes for First Nations people, all while reducing the carbon footprint of investors.
In addition to offering Australia’s only nationally accredited training course on carbon farming and providing verification services of environmental, social and cultural core benefits, AbCF has also developed a world-first trading platform.
“We’ve developed Catalyst Markets, a trading website … which is the world’s first Indigenous trading platform of environmental commodities,” Foley says. “Cultural fire credits are the first commodity that we’re trading on the platform.”
The trading platform provides a new opportunity for investors to support Traditional Owners in a way that keeps outcomes for First Nations peoples at the forefront of mind.
“For the first time you can invest in Traditional Owners looking after country by buying their carbon credits or buying cultural fire credits,” Foley says. “What we’re really doing here is we’re manipulating the market to suit First Nations people. Often it’s the other way around. Often First Nations people are manipulated to suit the market.
“So what we’ve done is we’ve said ‘no, we’re going to create a market based around Traditional Owner knowledge and environmental services’.”
Foley says combining traditional ways of environmental management with carbon credit investment could provide tangible solutions for climate change problems across Australia. “It’s not as though these problems don’t have solutions, because they do,” he says.
Foley will speak to investors about services offered by the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation at the Social Enterprise World Forum, to be held in Brisbane later this month.
“We want serious investors to come on board and support us,” he says. “We’ve got catalyst markets, we’ve got a trading platform, we’ve got a few commodities, commodities which will deal with serious bushfires in Australia.”
He said flow-on effects due to investment in the foundation were widespread.
“We’re here to create jobs on Country, we’re here to address the bushfires and we’re here to address climate change,” Foley says. “It’s actually more about what we’re doing, rather than who we are.”
The Aboriginal Carbon Foundation will be offsetting the Social Enterprise World Forum, making it a carbon neutral event.
The Greenlight Project is a year-long look at how regional Australia is preparing for and adapting to climate change.
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