Secretary Haaland Highlights Value of Pacific Nation Engagement in Australia Visit

Last edited 02/17/2023

Date: Friday, February 17, 2023


Canberra, Australia — This week, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited Australia to highlight the importance of Indigenous Knowledge, collaborative conservation and international partnerships to inform the global effort to fight the climate crisis and preserve our land and marine environments for future generations. The trip showcased the interconnectedness of the Interior Department’s mission and priorities with those of our international counterparts, including the U.S. relationship with key allies in the Indo-Pacific region.

Throughout the trip, Secretary Haaland, U.S. Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Carmen G. Cantor, U.S. Consul General Perth Siriana Nair, U.S. Consul General Melbourne Kathleen Lively, and Senior Advisor Heidi Todacheene visited sites that speak to the importance of close collaboration to address the climate crisis and steward our lands and waters.

The delegation met with Australian officials including Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek, Governor of Western Australia Chris Dawson, Premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan, and Western Australia Minister for the Environment Reece Whitby. Those discussions underscored the enduring partnership of the two countries and commitment to continued collaboration on issues including climate change and marine conservation, clean energy development and critical minerals mapping, wildfire management and support for Indigenous communities.

Secretary Haaland is the first U.S. cabinet secretary to visit Western Australia since 2012. At an event hosted by the Perth USAsia Centre, she noted how intensifying wildfires, historic droughts, and disastrous flooding threaten the futures and national security of every country on earth. She discussed efforts in the U.S. to conserve and restore public lands through the America the Beautiful initiative, and reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to fostering and upholding international partnerships that will help us all bolster our resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.

Since 2000, the United States and Australia have exchanged firefighting personnel and resources 13 times to assist one another with combating devastating wildfires and bushfires. The delegation received a tour and several presentations at the Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ (DFES) Bushfire Centre of Excellence, which is pioneering the incorporation of First Nations fire management techniques across Australia to protect communities from the devastating impacts of more intense wildfires.

The delegation traveled to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, one of Australia’s most iconic and important sacred sites. Uluru was declared a National Park in 1950, and Kata Tjuta was added in 1958. While there, Secretary Haaland met with Anangu Traditional Owners and Mutitjulu community rangers at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and Cultural Center and learned about the joint management and collaborative conservation efforts between Indigenous rangers and national park rangers. She highlighted similar efforts across America’s public lands to incorporate Indigenous Knowledge into federal land management through co-stewardship agreements. While in Uluru, the Secretary also held roundtables with students and Mutitjulu Community members.

During her visit, Secretary Haaland had the opportunity to explore some of the urban outdoor places maintained by Australian state and territory governments – including Kings Park in Perth and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in Canberra. At Tidbinbilla, the Secretary had the unique opportunity to visit the Koala Sanctuary, where she learned about the rangers’ efforts to enhance protections for koalas in the region. Secretary Haaland was also given a tour of Tidbinbilla’s breeding facilities for the critically endangered Northern Corroboree Frog and the endangered Grassland Earless Dragon.

Secretary Haaland and Assistant Secretary Newland also met with several members of the “Stolen Generations,” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were taken from their homes to boarding schools or “mission schools.” They discussed the Secretary’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, which includes an investigative report released in May 2022. The roundtable discussions gave Department leaders the opportunity to learn about the best practices gathered in the 15 years since Australia's publication of their own investigative effort.

Also during the delegation’s visit, Assistant Secretary Cantor met with representatives from the Australian Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Defence, and the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet to discuss the recent signings of Memoranda of Understanding between the United States and the Compacts of Free Association States (the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands) and discuss how the United States as a Pacific nation collaborates bilaterally and regionally with Australia.


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