Earlier this week, the Oscars ‘goodie bag’ was shrouded in controversy after it was revealed to contain a plot of land in Australia.
Unsurprisingly, given Australia’s history of dispossession of Indigenous land, as well as the current cost of living crisis, news of this year’s gift was not received well.
Now, environmentalists are joining the conversation, expressing concern at the location of the land in question, and questioning the motives of the brand responsible.
Why was a piece of Australian land included in the Oscars gift bag?
The gift comes courtesy of Pieces of Australia, a company premised on the purchasing of private land, which is then sold in “small parcels to people around the world,” in an effort to protect from human development, deforestation, and other environmental threats.
A portion of the revenue earned from this business model is then reallocated to “organisations who contribute in line with [Pieces of Australia’s] vision of creating a positive impact.”
Celebrities like Paul Mescal and Cate Blanchett were gifted Pieces of Australia’s “Aussie Mate Conservation Packs”, which includes one square metre of land on its “Envirocean Estate,” in the Western Downs region of Queensland.
However, speaking to The Guardian, The Australian Conservation Foundation‘s lead investigator, Annica Schoo, said the location of the land in question “is in the heart of the Condabri coal seam gas field.”
“The company states that it preserves land from development and is pursuing carbon sequestration opportunities through the [emissions reduction fund]. The available evidence suggests the land in question is being exploited for coal seam gas,” Schoo said.
Further, according to The Guardian, Pieces of Australia did not make any effort to consult with the traditional Indigenous owners of the land gifted to the Oscars celebs, the Barunggam nation.
The founder of Pieces of Australia, Niels Chaneliere, 29, told The Guardian he had reached out to the Indigenous Carbon Industry Network (ICIN).
The ICIN is an Indigenous-owned, non-profit organisation designed to “enable and empower Indigenous people to benefit from carbon markets through their land and sea management practices.”
In addition this, each portion of land gifted as part of the 2023 Oscars also came with a “digital member’s handbook.” Within the handbook is a subheading titled “a perspective from the Indigenous Aboriginals”.
“When most non-Indigenous people look at the land, they often see something they can exploit, an asset they can develop and use to create a profit. An Aboriginal person, on the other hand, looks at land as something more. They see a living, breathing thing that is deeply connected to their past, present, and future,” the handbook reads.
“Organizations like the Indigenous Carbon Industry Network (ICIN), who acts as an industry body, provides valuable resources to Indigenous local organizations,” it said.
However, in response to this claim the ICIN released a statement, saying “The ICIN has no relationship with Niels Chaneliere and, to the best of our knowledge, we have not been contacted by him in any way.”
The ICIN also said it had “not granted permission for any of our information, publications or photos to be reproduced to support the Oscars ‘Goodie Bag’ or ‘Pieces of Australia’.”