Working with Indigenous communities

Leading Practice Sustainable Development Program for the Mining Industry

Community sustainability and resilience are two ideals that have evolved from the wider concept of corporate social responsibility. In Australia, around 60% of mining projects are located in close proximity to Indigenous communities, making those companies well placed to assist with the development of resilience and sustainability within those communities while meeting some of their own corporate social responsibilities.

This handbook focuses on how the mining industry can work with Indigenous communities to contribute to improving present-day standards of living, generate resilience and create sustainable outcomes for long-term community survival without compromising industry operations. It does not and cannot provide absolute answers for all situations, but demonstrates some of the current leading practices that the Australian mining industry has in place. As more is learned about how industry interacts with remote Indigenous communities, current practices will continue to change and progress in concert with the mining industry’s developing philosophies of continuous improvement and zero harm.

Although the topics in this handbook are assessed in the context of the Australian mining industry, the principles and processes discussed also have application in the international arena. Consequently, the word Indigenous has been used throughout the handbook to reflect current international practice. In the Australian context, Indigenous should be taken to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; the terms ‘traditional owner’ or ‘local Indigenous’ include those Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people who have selfidentified as members of a local group or groups.

In this handbook, key social issues such as the alleviation of poverty through employment, education and business development initiatives are set against the background of Australian history, social demographics and legislation. Mechanisms for the creation of beneficial outcomes are placed into the context of negotiating mutually beneficial agreements that reflect recommendations now being published in international guides on how best to work with Indigenous people and communities. A leading practice process for negotiating different types of agreements is offered, along with suggestions aimed at greater participation of Indigenous people and their communities with the mining industry and what it has to offer. A range of recent case studies that support this cooperative approach is provided, with a special emphasis on those that offer sustainability in the post-mining environment.

This handbook is primarily intended for use as a management tool to assist corporate managers to design effective engagement strategies and to provide guidance to operations managers and staff on how to incorporate those strategies into the way they work with Indigenous communities at the operational level. A separate but related handbook in this series deals with broader community engagement and development.

LPSDPMI. (2016). Working with Indigenous communities. Barton: Commonwealth of Australia.

Leading Practice Sustainable Development Program for the Mining Industry
Working with Indigenous communities