Working with Traditional Owners
A personal and inclusive approach led from the top
S2 operates in areas that have significant importance regarding the cultural believes, history and heritage of Australia’s traditional owners. The Company’s Board and management are committed to working with traditional owners to build strong relationships based on trust and respect, as they did with S2’s forerunner, Sirius Resources.
S2 Executive Chairman, Mark Bennett, believes this should come from the top to ensure these values are propagated through the organisation, and to give traditional owners the respect they deserve, rather than delegating responsibility.
S2’s approach to this is detailed in its Community Engagement Policy (CEP) and Community Engagement Management System (CEMS).
Effective engagement requires living these values and doing so out of a genuine view of what is right. Mark’s personal actions reflect this by:
- Including aboriginal interests in mining at a resources investment conference (2014 RIU Explorers Conference, Fremantle):
- Sponsoring Indigenous Services Australia (ISA), a cultural awareness company headed by Wongatha man Tony Shaw
- Opening the presentation with aboriginal band, Yabu, delivering a conciliatory rendition of “I am Australian” in Wongatha and English
- Partnering with ISA for cultural awareness events entitled “It’s not just black and white”
- Performing with the Yabu Band (supporting Gurrumul) at Perth’s 2015 Survival Day concert
- Attending the Ngadju on-country Federal Court native title determination
As CEO and Managing Director of Sirius Resources, Mark made the following comments in the Company’s 2014 ASX release announcing the agreement with the Ngadju people for the Nova mine:
"I would like to publicly acknowledge the Ngadju people as traditional owners of the land, and their right to have a say, to participate in the venture, and to benefit from it"
His statements included recognition of legitimacy of the connection of aboriginal people to their land, the need to act in a constructive and co-operative manner, creating an enduring legacy beyond the mine gate, in harmony with the key cultural and environmental values and aspirations of aboriginal and non-aboriginal people alike.
Policies and procedures
S2’s Community Engagement Policy states the Company’s values and aims regarding all aspects of the communities in which it works, including traditional owners. Although the bulk of the team’s experience is with aboriginal people within Australia, we have also worked with the Sami (indigenous reindeer herders) of Lapland and the Inuit of arctic Quebec.
Our policy is to work in a transparent and open manner to engender trust, respect, and mutually beneficial outcomes, via actively communicating and engaging with traditional owners, seeking to maximise the positive impact of our activities and upholding ethical business practices that meet or exceed legal requirements.
The Company’s Community Engagement Management System, is a comprehensive set of internal procedures and guidelines aimed at ensuring the policy is implemented and lived. It includes:
- Role explanations
- Identification of traditional owner groups and representatives
- An issues register and response procedures
- Heritage identification and recording procedures
- Complaints management processes and register
- Performance measures
- Audit processes.
Responsibility for all matters relating to traditional owners sits with the Board and management. As stated above, the Company’s Chairman believes that the culture and values concerning traditional owner’s interests should come from the top, and that by management and the Board taking personal ownership of these matters it gives traditional owners the respect they deserve.
Awareness, commitment to and implementation of policies
In addition to employees and contractors being required to understand, commit to, and implement the principles and practices outlined in its CEP and CEMS, they also participate in the following:
- Generic and site-specific heritage inductions
- Cultural awareness courses, including heritage, reconciliation, the stolen generation, skin grouping, health, care for country, native title
- As observers in heritage surveys
This is reinforced in the Company’s Contractor Management Plan (CMP), a set of internal standards designed to ensure our values and intentions reach everyone working for the organisation.
Experience in negotiating and implementing agreements
The S2 team, as employees of Sirius Resources, directly negotiated and implemented the 2014 mining access agreement between the Ngadju people and Sirius for the development of the Nova mine in WA. Mark Bennett (then CEO of Sirius), personally led this landmark agreement, which provides a range of economic, educational and vocational benefits to equip the Ngadju people with learning, skills and experience applicable to areas other than just the mine to create a sustainable legacy, including:
- Royalty revenue
- School and higher education (TAFE) scholarships
- Employment opportunities at the mine site or applicable elsewhere (catering, administrative, earth moving and environmental roles)
- Contract opportunities partnering with established operators where capital requirements would otherwise preclude participation
- Funding a small business incubation entity
- Establishment and support of a care for country organisation (the Ngadju Rangers)
In addition to this, the team have been involved in the negotiation and implementation of several other agreements:
- Exploration access agreement over an aboriginal reserve in WA’s Kimberley, with the Gija people
- Mining access agreement for the Thunderbox gold mine, WA in 2000, with three pre-determination claimant groups - the Wongatha, Wutha and Ngalia people
- Exploration access with the Sami people (indigenous reindeer herders of Lapland in arctic Finland and Sweden)
- Regular dialogue regarding Native Title and issues impacting Indigenous Australians with parties, upon who’s traditional land we operative
Systems to review and improve
The Company’s CEMS has inbuilt mechanisms for reviewing and improving performance.
These include input from its indigenous advisers, which in the past has included Edward Fry, the chair of Indigenous Business Australia and the Indigenous Land Corporation, deputy chair of the Aboriginal Foundation of South Australia, a former prime minister’s advisory committee member, and a director of another ASX-listed exploration company.
S2 has several proactive measures for promoting feedback from traditional owners in relation to our exploration activities, including meetings, site tours, updates, and emails. From experience, we know this develops a strong working relationship and engagement with Native Title Groups.
S2 also maintains an active complaints and feedback register as per S2’s CEMS which includes complaint receival and register templates and close-out checklists.