The University of South Australia (UniSA) believes that Australian mining companies have significant potential for improvement on their interactions with local traditional landowners.
The institution completed a study that found that less than 10 per cent of mining companies had publicly outlined their engagement position with Aboriginal communities.
This includes the companies’ relations to key issues such as land rights and the preservation of culturally significant sites.
The study, completed by UniSA business researchers Amanpreeet Kaur and Wei Qian, examined the annual and sustainability reports for 448 publicly listed mining companies in Australia.
Of these companies, just 8 per cent disclosed their Aboriginal engagement ideology, policies and initiatives.
While the study suggested there was room for mining companies to improve their industry policies around Aboriginal relationships, the conclusions were not entirely negative.
“There are some good messages coming out in this area, but the problem is they are just not widespread enough and there isn’t the awareness in the industry of how to go about this,” Kaur said.
“The next phase of our research will construct a framework for companies to develop these kinds of disclosure statements to help them learn from each other and ensure there are techniques for evaluating their effectiveness.”
The research showed that it is predominantly large mining operators who have addressed Aboriginal relations in an official capacity at present.
Qian added that these policies were often focussed on philanthropic community programs and land rights.
“There are some existing programs that aim to increase Aboriginal employment and involvement in the industry, but currently these roles are marginalised with little leadership potential and no real attempt to share and learn from the knowledge of the traditional landowners,” Qian said.
“We believe establishing a framework for understanding and improving these engagements is a real opportunity for furthering reconciliation, encouraging more equal relationships between stakeholders and recognising the Indigenous knowledge of traditional landowners.”
Kaur and Qian believe that public disclosure statements provide a clear outline of how a company will act so its stakeholders, investors or others immediately impacted by these actions can respond accordingly.
By implementing these statements, the researchers believe improved public disclosure offers a clearer and simpler path to improved management of the mining industry’s relationship with Aboriginal people.