Words by Dee Clarke
Work Management Planner at BHP &
2019 Indigenous Advocacy Award Winner
There are some key mining 101 topics that come up time and time again: reducing costs, increasing productivity and increasing safety. And these are all vital conversations.
But when I was given the opportunity to present to a significant group of people in the final week of BHP’s Indigenous Development Program, specifically for Indigenous employees in the business, I chose to go down the company culture initiative route.
As someone who had been following the developments around the Uluru Statement from the Heart and tuning in to its progress, I felt very strongly that this was something more people needed to know about.
And as a proud Indigenous woman myself, who strongly supports other ATSI employees and as an advocate for diversity and inclusion on all levels, this was a great opportunity to help spread the word.
So I set about engaging and educating the broader BHP community, and anybody else who may be interested, about the Uluru Statement from the Heart – what it’s all about, how it came about and most importantly, why it matters.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart
What is the Uluru Statement From The Heart? It’s a national Indigenous consensus position on Indigenous constitutional recognition – outlined in a one-page document that came out of the Uluru First Nations Constitutional Convention in 2017.
This convention saw about 250 Indigenous elders and delegates from across Australia meet at Uluru, on the lands of the Aṉangu people, to discuss ways of moving forward with different constitutional reforms, and drawing on 13 Regional Dialogues held across the nation.
The Uluru Statement From The Heart calls for the establishment of a First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making and truth-telling between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and governments.
So it basically comes down to three key elements: having ATSI representatives or an advisory committee that can speak on behalf of ATSI people on the laws and policies and issues that relate to them; having a treaty without government; and telling the truth about our past history.
The Statement has been on a journey since its inception, travelling around Australia and being endorsed by communities and organisations. A dedicated working group and the wider Indigenous community is calling on all Australians to take the time to read it, to understand its history and walk alongside us in a movement of Australian people for a better future for us all.
Many people are not aware of The Uluru Statement from the Heart, and this is completely understandable, but it’s certainly very interesting and once you’ve heard about it, you’ll really start to notice it being talked about in the media, in politics and perhaps – and hopefully – in your own workplace or communities.
We can all take steps towards a better future for all Australians
So that’s what I’ve been educating the business about here at BHP, and it’s been a true privilege.
BHP has significantly supported Indigenous recognition and reconciliation in regards to the Uluru Statement From The Heart on a huge platform at the Committee of Economic Development of Australia.
And we are not the only large organisation doing this. Rio Tinto has also stepped up, and many other huge organisations including CFMEU Construction and General Division are supporting the initiative and speaking up about Indigenous rights, reconciliation, and recognition.
So it’s been a really significant movement over the past few months and it’s been fascinating to watch and, in some way, play a role in that. We can all lead by example. As individuals. As communities. And as businesses.
BHP’s Reconciliation Action Plan is re-launched every four years and the most recent one, in 2017, announced that the goal moving forward was to have 5.75% of the business made up of Indigenous employees. This is a really ambitious and meaningful goal considering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up just 3% of the population in Australia.
In fact, BHP employs over 22,400 people across its Australian operations and about 1400 of them identify as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. So we’re already near that goal.
It really reflects how flexible we are and what a diverse and respectful environment we have. I’m so proud to be part of a company whose charter values are aligned with my own personal values.
And of course a lot of our mining leases are on traditional lands, so it’s important to have a very good relationship with traditional owners and local Indigenous community members across the board. After all, Australia’s geography is millions upon millions of years in the making.
So what’s next?
Another exciting activity that I’ve planned as part of my role in the Indigenous Development Program is an Indigenous cultural immersion experience.
On 27 July, I’ll be taking 30 people from across our business, from all different assets, to Uluru. It will be an incredible experience like no other – aimed at fostering cultural understanding and respect, and ultimately, those very same values outlined in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
I’m so excited for this next chapter. I absolutely cannot wait.
People ask me why I’m so passionate about this? And apart from being Indigenous myself, when I look at the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, when I think about what I read out there and when I consider what I learnt about it at school – which was very little – I see that there really has been so little acknowledgement.
Now as an adult I am able to reflect on it a lot more, and you start to learn more and educate yourself a lot more on the issue, and then you want other people to come on that ride with you as well and for you to share what you know.
And I really do want to see change.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are only 3% of the population in Australia and are the most incarcerated people on the planet.
But when you empower people, the flow-on effects can be massive positive things always follow.