First Indigenous Australian recognised by IUCN as editor on conservation guidelines
February 2021: The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has invited Dr Emma Lee to be an Indigenous Australian editor in its guidelines for global conservation practice called Cultural and Spiritual Significance of Nature: Guidance for Protected and Conserved Area Governance and Management.
The IUCN is an independent body that advises the United Nations, World Heritage Committee and International Council on Monuments and Sites, among others, on nature conservation including protected and conserved areas.
Dr Emma Lee, a trawlwulwuy woman from Tasmania and an Indigenous Research Fellow at Swinburne, provided one of the seven case studies in the guidelines. Her case study on the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is an exemplar in new global guidelines for the management and governance for formally listed areas, such as national parks and forest reserves, and other conservation spaces.
Dr Lee congratulated the IUCN for adapting to new ideas and ways for global communities to manage protected areas.
She said, "Once Indigenous peoples were considered environmental vandals and dispossessed of our homelands, now we are beginning to repair those harms and being recognised as contributing to 25% percent of the world’s biodiversity, even though we make up only 3% of the global population. In the wake of the Paris Accord, we need more choices about how we conserve our precious places, this guideline sets a global pathway for valuing Indigenous knowledge."
In 2020, Dr Lee was the inaugural recipient of the Australian Institute of Geographers William Jonas Award and is a current member of the Australian Federal Government’s National Co-Design Group for Indigenous Voice. She is a key architect in 2016 of the Tasmanian Government’s whole-of-government strategy for Aboriginal Affairs, entitled ‘Reset the Relationship’, that ushered in state constitutional recognition and the first joint management plan for a protected area.