The effort to better acknowledge and include First Nations peoples in the Australian mining industry is advancing as more Indigenous initiatives are introduced and more Indigenous contracts awarded.
While some mining companies can still improve their Indigenous engagement, there are instances that indicate a concerted effort to prioritise First Nations recognition and involvement.
Florence Drummond, chief executive officer of Indigenous Women in Mining and Resources Australia (IWIMRA), is excited by the trajectory of Indigenous engagement in Australian mining.
“What I’ve seen from my experience is a lot more campaigns in terms of Indigenous employment which is fantastic,” Drummond says.
“There’s been a lot more learning and interpretation around Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) as well so engaging not only with employees but Indigenous businesses to build better relationships with communities holistically as well.
“So those have been really successful points or strengthening points for best engagement between the industry, society but also communities.”
Fortescue Metals Group’s (FMG) launched a new initiative in March 2020 alongside longstanding belt and conveyor maintenance contracting partner, REMA TIP TOP (REMA), to offer belt splicing traineeships for Indigenous workers.
As part of its contract negotiations with FMG, REMA signed an agreement with wholly-Indigenous-owned workforce organisation Karlayura Group to deliver the traineeships.
FMG’s Vocational Training and Employment Centre (VTEC) program has also employed over 1000 Aboriginal people since 2006.
A big part of mining services company NRW Holdings’ business model is to respect the importance of Indigenous culture in Australia.
Through their Indigenous pre-employment program, Powerup, NRW is committed to providing sustainable opportunities for Indigenous Australians going forward.
Indigenous employment is one important piece to the puzzle, however, Drummond believes there are other critical elements to the cause.
“When we think about our participation when it comes to decarbonisation and digitalisation, it’s always evolving so we’re always thinking about, ‘Well where do we belong and where can we be most impactful’,” she says.
“But also as well, where is there shared value because it’s never a one-way street and I think reflecting on your previous question around Indigenous acknowledgement, there’s been a lot of language now focusing around, ‘Well what are the protocols? How are we then really maximising our Indigenous engagement strategies and reconciliation action plans?’.
“Because essentially those are the tools and the strategies that we can put in place throughout organisations that gives us standard and also measurable outcomes as well.”