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Business and investor initiative launches in response to destruction of Juukan Gorge


13 October 2021 at 4:45 pm
Nikki Stefanoff
“We must care for our culture and our heritage, not just for the benefit of our own mob, but for all people that visit our Countries.” 


Nikki Stefanoff | 13 October 2021 at 4:45 pm


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Business and investor initiative launches in response to destruction of Juukan Gorge
13 October 2021 at 4:45 pm

“We must care for our culture and our heritage, not just for the benefit of our own mob, but for all people that visit our Countries.” 

Business, investment and First Nations communities have come together to create an initiative aimed at strengthening Australia’s First People’s heritage laws. 

The Dhawura Ngilan (remembering Country) Business and Investor Initiative was formed in response to Rio Tinto’s destruction of Juukan Gorge.

It was launched on Wednesday,  just as the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia prepares to deliver its report into the 2020 incident, which took place on the traditional lands of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (Binigura) people.

The project is being led by the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance in partnership with the Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA), and Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA). 


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Estelle Parker, the executive manager of programs for RIAA, told Pro Bono News that an initiative such as Dhawura Ngilan was long overdue, and was a response to the devastating incident at Juukan Gorge. 

“What happened at Juukan Gorge really did send shockwaves through the investment sector, and let’s keep in mind that it wasn’t an isolated incident, which investors were also shocked to learn,” Parker said. 

“There’s a real desire amongst investors, particularly RIAA members, to do something so it doesn’t happen again. Investors understand that they have a key role to play in improving practice amongst the companies that they’re invested in.” 

Once it has secured funding, the Dhawura Ngilan initiative aims to produce two guides; one for investors and the other for business. They will each break down how the relevant sector can best engage with traditional owners in the areas and communities they are operating in. 

While there’s no current timeline for these guides, RIAA is launching a separate toolkit on 22 October that will provide investors with a best practice, practical guide on how they can make sure the companies they’re invested in are managing cultural heritage appropriately. 

“The alliance formed through the Dhawura Ngilan initiative will take the toolkit one step further,” explains Parker. 

“The guides will go deeper into analysis and offer best-practice standards and guidelines for the sector, they will be the first resource from Dhawura Ngilan.”

Parker said that partnering with other organisations on the initiative meant that more meaningful multi-stakeholder conversations could happen. 

“It’s not just investors consulting with traditional owners or companies engaging with stakeholders,” she said. 

“It’s a real engagement process where RIAA, GCNA and the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance are coming together to collaborate on this initiative. There’s a real opportunity here to deepen the engagement between investors and the corporate sector and First Nations peoples.”

From RIAA’s perspective, Parker said while there’s hope that an initiative like Dhawura Ngilan will provide guidance for investors when it comes to the mining sector she’s quick to point out that cultural heritage protection is much broader than just the mining industry. 

“Juukan Gorge really brought to light some systemic failings with Rio Tinto,” she said. “Prior to this incident, Rio Tinto was said to have pretty good publicly disclosed processes and standards in place in terms of stakeholder engagement. So something went wrong there and investors are very keen to make sure that kind of thing stops happening.” 

Rodney Carter is a member of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, group CEO of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, and a Steering Committee member for the Dhawura Ngilan initiative. He said that the initiative was incredibly important for First Nations’s people.

“We must care for our culture and our heritage, not just for the benefit of our own mob, but for all people that visit our Countries.” 

Register for RIAA’s toolkit here

 


Nikki Stefanoff  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Nikki Stefanoff is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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