Genuine engagement and collaboration with First Nations communities that promotes benefit sharing and respects the land and water rights and interests of First Nations people and communities.
Why action is needed
The Australian Government acknowledges and respects the unique relationship First Nations peoples and communities have with the environment including land, sea, waterways, flora and fauna.
Valuing First Nations land and water rights, cultural heritage and genuine engagement with First Nations communities is essential to Australia’s social and economic success. The benefits to be gained from the growth of Australia’s critical minerals sector, now and into the future, must be shared with and driven by the strengths and aspirations of the First Nations communities in which projects take place. Governments and industry are responsible for progressing meaningful engagement, agreement making and benefit sharing with First Nations communities.
More than 60 per cent of Australian resources projects, including exploration and extraction, operate on land covered by a Native Title claim or determination (Productivity Commission 2020). Proponents are required to negotiate land use and access. In the Northern Territory, approximately 50 per cent of the landmass is freehold Aboriginal land where Traditional Owners have the right to refuse consent or ‘veto’ any land access use proposals. First Nations landholders and communities are key stakeholders for the resources sector and essential to its future sustainability.
Engaging with First Nations communities risks being seen as simply a step in a checklist for approval, particularly where there are multiple complex approval processes. But effective engagement and consultation with First Nations communities can support meaningful negotiations for access to land and land use proposals under existing land rights legislation or the Native Title Act 1993, and provide local employment opportunities, skills development and investment in the community. This will improve outcomes for First Nations communities and support targets and outcomes under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.