Rio Tinto and Reconciliation Australia have taken steps to establish closer ties with business and Indigenous communities, with an action plan handed to Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday.
The Rio Tinto Reconciliation Action Plan was presented to the Prime Minister by Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive and Reconciliation Australia board member Tom Calma as part of National Reconciliation Week.
Reconciliation Australia provided guidance and support in the development of the Plan which provides a blueprint for deeper engagement between Indigenous communities and Rio Tinto operations around Australia, the company said in a statement.
“Our Reconciliation Action Plan is an acknowledgement of the way we undertake engagement and business with Indigenous people,” Walsh said.
“We believe that working in partnership with Indigenous people will ensure that they share in the economic benefits and opportunities created by our operations, which will contribute to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
“The Rio Tinto Reconciliation Action Plan reflects our journey of reconciliation which continues through new agreements we are reaching with the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we operate.
“In particular the Plan recognises and builds on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy, our engagement with Aboriginal communities, and the many initiatives and achievements of the past 15 years.
The miner has long been an advocate for engaging with indigenous communities on land issues and employment opportunities but says there is still more progress to be made.
“Rio Tinto is already the largest private sector employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with approximately eight per cent of our Australian workforce being Indigenous, but we recognise that there is considerable work to be done to close the gap and that we need to partner with organisations like Reconciliation Australia to do this,” Walsh said.
“This Plan will help Rio Tinto engage all of our business units in the journey to promote reconciliation.”
In 2006, Calma reported favourably on Rio Tinto’s engagement practices with the traditional owners in the Argyle mine region and now says the launch of Rio Tinto’s Reconciliation Action Plan was a significant step forward for the Australian mining industry.
He said it sends a powerful message of shared responsibility to the Australian business community and to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this country.
“Rio Tinto today joins around 20 percent of the national workforce who have formally committed to improving relationships, respect and opportunities through a Reconciliation Action Plan,” Calma said.
“Over the last decade Rio Tinto has been a leader in acknowledging the strong business case for reconciliation and building communities that are strong, connected and resilient, well beyond the mine life and today raised the bar by launching this Plan and making new commitments for the coming years.”
Image: Rio Tinto