The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) is pleased to make a submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs inquiry into pathways and participation opportunities for Indigenous Australians in employment and enterprise.
The MCA represents Australia’s exploration, mining and minerals processing industry, accounting for the majority of national minerals production. MCA members share a commitment to operating in a way that supports sustainable development for current and future generations.1 Advancing responsible business practices through policy engagement and practical support is an important part of the MCA’s role.
The minerals industry has long supported policies and programs that empower Indigenous Australians, understanding that improved quality of life is tied to cultural, social and economic wellbeing. Economic participation both contributes to, and results from, improved quality of life.
Various government policy initiatives aim to address the disproportionate social and economic exclusion experienced by Indigenous Australians relative to non-Indigenous Australians. Accordingly, this submission does not address the broader socio-economic factors affecting economic participation. Instead it contributes to the inquiry by outlining key minerals industry’s employment and business pathways for Indigenous Australians.
A long-term commitment to partnering for economic empowerment
Economic independence and empowerment of current and future generations is a priority for many Indigenous Australians – including Traditional Owners – in regions that host minerals development. Recognition that the minerals industry is uniquely placed to support economic development has led to decades of shared focus on mining-related Indigenous enterprise development and employment.2
Indigenous economic development programs are well-established among MCA members. Native title and land rights regimes also provide a framework for minerals companies to make specific training, employment and business commitments with host Traditional Owner groups. Company-wide Indigenous economic development approaches may complement these local commitments.
The minerals industry offers various tailored employment and enterprise pathways for Indigenous Australians with a focus on Traditional Owners and Indigenous Australians in host communities.3 A range of industry, Indigenous-led, government and other initiatives support meaningful and respectful engagement with Indigenous businesses and promote mining employment and business pathways.
Tailored employment pathways across the minerals industry
More than 6,600 Indigenous Australians, mostly in remote and regional areas, are directly employed in the minerals industry – a 2.5 times increase in the decade to 2016.4 Furthermore many Indigenous Australians are pursuing careers in other sectors after gaining skills and experience in the minerals industry. Tailored employment pathways are integral to this outcome, particularly in remote areas.
Leading practice mining employment pathways can include locally-focused work readiness programs, apprenticeship, traineeship and cadetship opportunities and targeted recruitment. Mentoring and career development support and workforce cultural awareness training support Indigenous employment pathways. Leading practice approaches are highlighted in this submission.
Supporting current and future Indigenous employees to develop the skills and capabilities for the future workforce is an industry priority. Increasing the number of Indigenous Australians pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers is crucial.
A thriving Indigenous mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector
Supporting further growth in the thriving Indigenous business sector is a long-standing industry priority. Indigenous mining and METS businesses provide diverse goods and services to the minerals industry. Engaging and supporting businesses owned by local Traditional Owners and Indigenous Australians in host regions in an industry focus.
Indigenous procurement targets underpinned by tailored policies and programs are well-established. Targeted Indigenous business engagement and providing access to specialist business development support are often part of such programs. MCA members may require major contractors and suppliers to adopt complementary Indigenous business targets. Leading practice examples are highlighted in this submission.