The Queensland’s resources sector earlier this year celebrated being the state’s leading private sector employer of Indigenous people at a gala event in Brisbane. Held during National Reconciliation Week, it was an ideal opportunity for resource companies to share the welcome achievement.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples make up almost five percent of Queensland’s resources workforce, which is higher than their level of representation in the state’s population.Though there is still a long way to go, direct Indigenous employment in Queensland’s resources sector grew by 24 percent in 2019-20, based on data collected from Queensland Resources Council (QRC) members across the state.
Building on previous years, the Queensland resources sector has in fact increased Indigenous hires by 47 percent since 2016-17, demonstrating genuine commitment from companies to build partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.
QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said the Queensland Government’s Next Step Destination Data shows more than a third of Indigenous students from Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy (QMEA) undertaking apprenticeships went into the mining industry. A great outcome, the industry provides exciting, skilled, and well-paid careers – not just jobs – for Indigenous Queenslanders.
Leading From the Top; Repairing Relations.
In more welcome news, and on the other end of the career spectrum, Rio Tinto Ltd made its first Aboriginal board appointment, hiring former Western Australian state treasurer Ben Wyatt. Having retired from state parliament in March after a 15-year career that included time as Aboriginal affairs minister, Wyatt has helped reshape legislation to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage. Western Australian heritage protection legislation is still being redrafted, with expectations it will be presented to parliament later this year.
The move is a significant one, as the Mining powerhouse works to rebuild its reputation and trust with the Indigenous community following last year's destruction of the Juukan Gorge rockshelters. He will join Rio as a non-executive director, and is looking forward to building on the momentum for change at Rio Tinto that had been generated by its new leadership team.
Wyatt remarked that he was deeply saddened and disappointed by the events at Juukan Gorge, but convinced that Rio Tinto is committed to changing its approach to cultural heritage issues. Rio’s Chairman Simon Thompson said Wyatt's knowledge of public policy, finance, international trade and Indigenous affairs would significantly bolster the depth of knowledge on the Board.
At a time when they are seeking to reset relationships, it’s essential Indigenous people are at the fore of decision-making about mining developments in the future. Co-management is key to ensuring the voices of traditional land owners and communities are heard when making decisions that impact national heritage.
The Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) Aboriginal Corporation — administers the traditional lands of the impacted region — said they are not opposed to mining, but insist partnering and developing genuine relationships must guide how business is done in the future. Without that, there's a significant risk of history repeating.
Creating solutions which address societal concerns, and work alongside local communities to grow and develop, requires companies to adopt environmentally responsible attitudes. At Concentis, we believe companies operating within strict best practices are non-negotiable as they administer mining and energy services across Australia.
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