Investors back cultural heritage revamp
Investors are backing a new push to strengthen cultural heritage protection in Australia following Rio Tinto’s destruction of the ancient Juukan Gorge rock shelters.
The Dhawura Ngilan initiative will guide investors and businesses to engage with First Nations people more respectfully.
It will also support stronger heritage protection laws focused on enshrining the principles of free, prior and informed consent.
The initiative is a partnership between the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance, the Global Compact Network Australia and Responsible Investment Association Australasia.
Industry super fund Hesta and major property developer Lendlease have thrown their support behind Dhawura Ngilan, with private equity and impact investment groups also on board.
Hesta, which manages $64 billion on behalf of more than 900,000 Australians, was among Rio’s most vocal critics after the mining giant last year destroyed the 46,000-year-old Juukan caves in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.
The global backlash from investors led Rio to part ways with several executives, including former chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques.
Generous payouts to Mr Jacques and other executives prompted a shareholder revolt with Rio receiving a “first strike” against its remuneration report.
“We support the Dhawura Ngilan vision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage in Australia and the translation of this vision into best practice standards for legislation,” Hesta’s head of impact Mary Delahunty said on Wednesday.
“We look forward to a similar translation of the vision into best practice standards for businesses and investors. This will allow investors like Hesta a deeper understanding of the clear systemic, financial risk that poor partnership practices with traditional owners has on our members’ investments.”
The initiative will be chaired by Lendlease executive Cath Brokenborough, who acknowledged her company had played “an unwitting part in the historical dispossession of First Nations peoples and the disruption of songlines”.
“We aim to drive substantive institutional and structural reform towards a shared national identity that celebrates and embraces Australia’s First Nations heritage,” she said.
Rio has repeatedly apologised for the Juukan destruction and is reassessing 1300 heritage sites in the Pilbara in consultation with traditional owners.
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