Taking fresh steps in encouraging Indigenous economic independence

Uranium companies have for some years run programs to employ local indigenous people and to share the economic benefits of uranium projects with local indigenous communities.

Important gains have been made. The proportions of workforces drawn from local indigenous populations have been gradually increasing. As more indigenous people have developed the aptitude and necessarily specialised skills, more indigenous people have set up businesses to provide services to mining companies.

At the same time, the industry has stepped cautiously around the question of establishing explicit objectives for increasing the proportions of indigenous contractors and employees they hire.

The setting of employment and business engagement targets is a direct outcome of the establishment of the AUA’s Indigenous Dialogue Group.

Co-convened by former ALP National President, Mr Warren Mundine, and the CEO of the Association, Mr Michael Angwin, the IDG was formed in 2009 out of a common belief in the importance to Indigenous communities of economic participation and development.

Michael noted that we established the IDG out of a shared belief that the industry could and should do more to help Indigenous people  benefit from the new economic activity that uranium mining would bring to remote and often poor communities of Australia.

Its key initiative so far has been to fund and establish an Indigenous scholarship to encourage and support promising Indigenous students to undertake tertiary study in disciplines that will benefit both Indigenous communities and, possibly, the uranium industry. Four scholarships have been granted and a total of 12 are planned.

The companies have undertaken a  range of other activities, including employment and training programs; indigenous business contracting opportunities have been provided; many companies have explicit policies to hire local Indigenous people ahead of workers in other categories; companies set up local employment registers and so on.

But the industry has now taken this further important step. Uranium companies will for the first time during 2012 set targets for the provision of jobs and business opportunities for indigenous people.

Each company active in uranium exploration, project development or mining will set its own targets in each category, appropriate to its stage of business growth and development.
This initiative is guided by the AUA's statement on Indigenous Economic Engagement, developed by the Indigenous Dialogue Group. See the statement below: