Nov 11, 2020In The Community

A Celebration of NAIDOC Week

Brighter looks at the work three gas majors are doing to build bonds with Australia’s Indigenous population

NAIDOC Week, a cultural celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, is currently underway, with the 2020 event ongoing through November 8–15. Normally observed in early July, this year’s event was postponed for four months due to safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week is “Always Was, Always Will Be”, in recognition of more than 65,000 years of First Nations history.

The Australian gas sector has a storied history of collaboration with Traditional Owners. Many companies within the industry, both large and small, have worked to improve collaboration with Indigenous communities in line with the framework set out by organisation Reconciliation Australia at the beginning of the last decade. The influential not-for-profit introduced the concept of Reconciliation Action Plans (RAP), designed to guide organisations and industries in the spirit of this collaboration.

“No matter where your organisation is on its reconciliation journey, there is a RAP to suit,” the organisation stated.

A recent example of this can be seen at industry major Chevron, for example, which launched its latest innovation-focused RAP last December. This RAP is set to build on the company’s desire to support local workforces and communities by fostering Aboriginal inclusion. This plan set out commitments to increase diversity among suppliers, fund educational programs (including scholarships), boost leadership opportunities for Aboriginal women, and a host of other initiatives.

“By increasing awareness and understanding of Aboriginal culture, we aim to create an inclusive working environment where people are valued for their diverse perspectives, experiences and contributions,” said Noongar woman Michelle Mippy, an HR administrator at Chevron Australia. “Collaborating with other Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal employees to achieve this vision has been an incredibly rewarding experience.”

Fellow major Santos has also entered several partnerships to champion improved cultural understanding. Its emissions work on the West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) project in the Northern Territory savanna has been cited by former United Nations Under Secretary-General Konrad Osterwalder as the world’s best example of a culturally appropriate partnership between Indigenous and local communities in the carbon market. It is also noted for its Country learning Program, and Aboriginal Power Cup, which has improved school attendance among Indigenous pupils.

Shell too has encouraged the uptake of Indigenous employment within the company, being an early adopter of Reconciliation Australia’s RAP program since 2011. This includes collaborations such as the Shell QGC Traineeship Pathway Program with Harness Energy, and Western Downs Indigenous Careers Program with MIGAS, which have both proven successful training and mentorship opportunities.

“Shell aspires to positively contribute to reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia by recognising their culture and rights and by jointly seeking opportunities to work together for mutual benefit,” the company explained.

The company has also prioritised cultural awareness training and an ‘RAP  Champion’ network as other ways to recognise Reconciliation leaders within the company, strengthening its bond with the Traditional custodians of the Western Australian, Queensland and Northern Territory regions in which it works.

RAP programs have proven highly influential in improving cultural understanding and participation within the nation’s gas industry over the last 10 years, and as we celebrate the first NAIDOC Week of this new decade, their influence looks set to reach even further.