A forum of First Nations people in Cairns has signed a national dingo declaration, which demands an immediate stop to the killing of dingoes across Australia.
The declaration, signed by First Nations people from 20 different nations, is advocating for a model called 'Caring for Dingoes on Country' to be recognised as culturally significant and protected in legislation.
"This model must use traditional knowledge, and evidence-based practice, focusing on peaceful co-existence between dingoes and all stakeholders," the statement reads.
It also calls on all levels of government to directly involve them, as traditional custodians, in decision-making on all pieces of legislation and management that impacts dingoes.
"We demand our rights to have our voice, and capacity to apply culture in all matters relating to the dingo," it says, going on to invoke two articles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, endorsed by Australia in 2009, to claim inherent sovereign rights in the preservation of dingoes.
Article 25 asserts that Indigenous people have the right to maintain and strengthen their spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands.
The following article says that as well as having the right to own, use, develop and control traditionally owned land, states shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources.
Australia has yet to honour its commitment to this declaration.
Over 100 people from mainland states attended the conference and produced the declaration.
Conference organiser Whitney Rassip, from the Girringun Aboriginal Corporation at Cardwell, said they wanted a new approach to protecting and managing dingoes nationally.
"Indigenous people have deep cultural links to dingoes, and day-to-day involvement in modern land management, (but) we have been left out of conversations around the management of dingoes," she said.
"We are deeply concerned about the ongoing indiscriminate killing of dingoes that occurs in many regions.
"In too many places the standard management is still to kill and eradicate, under the pretence that so-called 'wild dogs' are being targeted.
"We appreciate that some farmers and graziers, especially sheep and goat producers, will be concerned about protection of their stock from dingoes.
"We would like to work with landholders to support the non-lethal solutions available to protect small livestock."
Ms Rassip said the declaration was a long-needed First Nations' perspective on engaging with dingoes.
"We will work together to ensure it acts as a springboard for new approaches to dingo management on a local level," she said. "From here on a new Indigenous network will support Indigenous people working together for changes in dingo management across many of our nations".
The declaration places much emphasis on the place dingoes have in the individual and collective entities of Australia's First Nations people.
It speaks of them as family, as part of their creation, rituals, ceremonies, art, dances, and songs, and as a cultural icon representing a vital connection to country.
Saying they are the 'Boss of Country', the declaration says their presence in the ecosystem ensures natural systems remain in balance.
Ms Rassip said a growing body of evidence had highlighted the ecological benefits of dingoes in the Australian environment, regulating the population of kangaroos and controlling and eradicating feral goats and pigs, as well as introduced predators like cats and foxes.
A research paper released last week, 'Stuck in the mud: Persistent failure of 'the science' to provide reliable information on the ecological roles of Australian dingoes', found the majority of research did not have the scientific rigour to support conclusions that dingoes suppress feral cat and fox populations.
The declaration says that graziers have received better business returns from maintaining dingo populations, which demonstrates that killing does not need to be the default approach.
It also states an objection to the use of the term 'wild dog'.
"This term diminishes the dingo. It is a deliberate misrepresentation to justify killing. It disrespects and disregards culture," it says.
European colonisation and introduced livestock are given as reasons for impacting First Nations' relationships with dingoes.
"We assert the truth of this statement as the basis to restore our cultural obligations and rights in alignment with our lore/law and custom," the declaration concludes. "As the undersigned individuals from our respective nations, together with our allies across society, we are determined in walking together to make real the demands of this declaration."
Wild dog management officials have been contacted for comment.
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