BHP CEO backs Indigenous voice to parliament



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Fulfilling the Uluru Statement from the Heart is essential to strengthening Australia’s society and economy for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, according to BHP Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Mackenzie.

Speaking at a CEDA event in WA, Mr Mackenzie said that the Australian constitution should be amended to properly acknowledge Indigenous Australia.

“The longer I’ve been at BHP the more certain I’ve become that this great company, like this great country, has unfinished business with the Indigenous peoples of Australia and that’s why we cannot stand on the sidelines,” he said.

“The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a challenge to hear the unheard, it’s the collective expression of 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates who represent Indigenous people from right across Australia.

“It is an invitation to Australia and the Australian people, it was created through a process of consultation and a rich dialogue among Indigenous Australians that is impressive, both of its scale and its ambition.”

Mr Mackenzie said that he did not believe fears of a deepening cultural divide would result from recognising an Indigenous voice in parliament, saying Australia must not squander this opportunity.

“The final report of the joint select committee on constitutional recognition which aimed to recapture bipartisanship on this matter found that there is nothing to fear from giving Indigenous Australians the constitutionally enshrined voice that they absolutely deserve,” he said.

“It can create as Stan Grant has said, a nation of Australians, indivisible.”

Mr Mackenzie said the BHP Foundation had pledged $1 million in Cape York Partnerships.

“It’s a project that aims to spark a national conversation about the Uluru Statement so that Australians are fully informed about the call for a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament ahead of a referendum,” he said.

“A referendum must be held at a time when it has the best chance of success.”

He said that BHP’s commitment to reconciliation has continued to evolve since their first iron ore mine 20 years ago.

“Our relationships with traditional owners must be found in the spirit of partnership so that we can all truly benefit from our presence on country,” he said.

“We currently have several agreements with a number of traditional owner groups in SA, WA and QLD.

“They’re not just about financial benefits, they encompass heritage protection, employment, contracting opportunities and cultural preservation and they’re based on mutual benefit.

“While mining benefits our whole nation, business, governments and society, we all must now make sure that those communities closest to mining operations benefit fairly as well.”

Mr Mackenzie said that as part of this commitment, BHP in line with their Reconciliation Action Plan, had lifted internal Indigenous employment targets to at least 5.25 per cent of its 1500 employees by 2020.

“We’re also committed to work to obtain consent and negotiate agreements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations on any new operations or capital projects,” he said.

“All our Australian assets will promote relevant procurement opportunities to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses.

“We accept that there are many uncomfortable truths about BHP’s history.

“As a step forward, we’ll establish a standing advisory group that comprises Indigenous leaders from right across the country and this will give our business leaders guidance on Indigenous histories.

“It will also help us equip our Indigenous employees with the skills to take on more leadership and executive positions.

“The Uluru Statement is a call to BHP, to business and to Australia to create a rightful place for Indigenous people in this nation through voice, through agreement making and through truth.

“This is our opportunity to listen to and act upon a request from Indigenous people to be truly recognised and after 240 years we must take it.”

Event presentations

Andrew Mackenzie, BHP MP3 | PDF

Prof. Megan Davis, UNSW Sydney MP3

Delegate handout PDF