Business & Human Rights, News

UN Global Compact Network Australia responds to the Voice referendum

Kate Dundas | October 24, 2023

In July 2023, the UN Global Compact Network Australia (UNGCNA), the local network of the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, announced its support for a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament. We highlighted the connection between businesses’ commitment to the UN Global Compact, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and respect for the human rights of First Nations peoples.

Throughout 2023, the UNGCNA called on participants to support initiatives that promote human rights and advance the SDGs within Australia. These initiatives champion the internationally recognised human rights of First Nations Australians and relevant SDGs, such as SDG 10 (Reduced inequalities) and SDG 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels).

We were heartened to see participants embrace this call to action. Many companies took steps to listen to First Nations team members, connect with communities, contribute to human rights funding campaigns and participate in the public policy discussion. Recognising their scale, many participants took steps to educate their workforce including through the provision of self-help resources for non-indigenous team members. This work was noticed and will be important in the weeks and months ahead.

We respect that Australia voted against amending its Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia. While it wasn’t the result that we had hoped for, our work to engage Australian businesses on the promotion and protection of First Nations’ human rights will continue.

For decades, the UN Global Compact has called on companies to align with ten universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals. In Australia, this continues to mean taking meaningful steps towards reconciliation with First Nations peoples, working towards an economy that allows Australians to truly ‘walk in two worlds’ as the Uluru Statement from the Heart invites.

For participants that endorsed The Uluru Statement from the Heart, we encourage you to engage with the Dhawura Ngilan Business and Investor Initiative as a way to scale community expectations for the protection, promotion and celebration of First Nations cultural heritage.

The UNGCNA encourages all companies to see the promotion and protection of First Nations human rights and cultural heritage in Australia as a foundation stone of responsible business. As recognised by Reconciliation Australia ‘clearly the imperatives for Indigenous Australians have not changed and the issues written about so eloquently in the Uluru Statement remain to be addressed’.

We reiterate the message for reconciliation to live in the hearts, minds, and actions of all Australians, towards a future where all Australians are united by our shared past, present, future and humanity.

article by

Kate Dundas

Kate Dundas is the Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Network Australia (UNGCNA), the Australian Local Network of the United Nations (UN) Global Compact. As Executive Director, Kate leads a team of experts across the fields of business and human rights, environment and climate change, anti-bribery and corruption and sustainable development.Kate is an experienced and well-regarded executive leader with 20 years of experience across the public and private sectors in sustainability, strategic foresight, strategy and city planning. She holds degrees in Industrial Design, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design, is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership, Harvard Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership program and is an Executive MBA candidate.