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Landmark First Nations, business and investor initiative launches to improve cultural heritage protection in Australia

Kylie Porter | October 13, 2021

A landmark business and investor initiative has been launched – bringing together First Nations, business and investor communities – focused on strengthening Australia’s First People’s heritage laws and standards for the private sector to uphold the human rights of First Peoples.

Led by the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance in partnership with the Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA), and the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA), the Dhawura Ngilan Business and Investor Initiative sees protecting cultural heritage as the responsibility of all Australians, including the finance and business sectors.

The initiative is being launched as the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia prepares to report on its inquiry into the devastating destruction of Juukan Gorge on the traditional lands of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (Binigura) peoples. This 2020 event marked a turning point in awareness of the value and importance of Country and cultural heritage for all Australians.

“The Dhawura Ngilan Business and Investor Initiative aims to build partnerships and deliver resources that provide guidance to investors and businesses to engage with First Nations Peoples more respectfully. The Initiative will also support heritage protection laws that uphold the human rights of First Peoples to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent,” said Kylie Porter, Executive Director, Global Compact Network Australia.

“We witnessed national and global investor backlash to the Juukan Gorge disaster, demonstrating that First Nations’s cultural heritage is both a moral issue as well as a material financial risk,” said Estelle Parker, RIAA’s Executive Manager – Programs.

She continued, “This has heralded a new era of investor activity and engagement to ensure that the rights of First Nations Peoples are protected in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Together with several of our members, we are pleased to be part of this Initiative. We are also launching an industry-developed Investor Toolkit on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Cultural Heritage Protection later this month, which will help investors navigate this issue and support best practice in protecting the incredible heritage of our First Nations.”

Alliance co-chairs Kado Muir and Anne Dennis commend the work of the Dhawura Ngilan Business and Investor Initiative and look forward to working with the finance and business sectors in implementing the initiative.

Rodney Carter, Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council and Group CEO of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and Steering Committee member of the Initiative, highlighted its importance for First Nations, stating, “Every day there are sacred places, cultural places, healing places that are being destroyed because our Aboriginal Cultural Heritage legislation permits managed destruction. 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.”

Kylie Porter explained the origins of the initiative stating, “The Initiative formed with the intention of aligning peak bodies of responsible business and investment, with the aspirations of First Nations, to provide avenues to improve business’s respect for the cultural heritage of our First Nations Peoples, particularly those businesses that work with Country everyday.”

Companies such as Lendlease have already partnered with the Initiative to reconcile and build a deeper understanding of place, acknowledging the significance of Country and heritage as foundations for a more resilient, dynamic and connected society.

Cath Brokenborough, Executive Lead, First Nations engagement, Lendlease (GCNA member) and Chair of the Dhawura Ngilan Business and Investor Initiative stated, “As Australia’s largest developer and placemaker, Lendlease supports Dhawura Ngilan as an important opportunity to acknowledge, protect and incorporate traditional knowledge, cultures, languages and historical truths of First Nations peoples in the development of the built environment.”

This Initiative gives business and investor communities a positive and constructive way to contribute to the Dhawura Ngilan (Remembering Country) vision, which is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working with all Australians to identify, protect, conserve and communicate the unique heritage of Australia for future generations.

This media release can also be viewed on the National Native Title Council website.

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Kylie Porter

Kylie is a sustainability expert with over 18 years of experience in corporate affairs, sustainability and strategy roles across a broad range of industries. During her career, Kylie has helped numerous companies develop and implement responsible business strategies, managed reputation risk for environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and wrote and managed policies across various thematic areas including climate change and human rights.