Company Engagement with First Nations People

We acknowledge and respect the traditional lands and cultures of First Nations peoples in Australia and globally. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and recognise First Nations peoples’ longstanding and ongoing spiritual connections to land, sea, community and Country. Appreciation and respect for the rights and cultural heritage of First Nations peoples is essential to the advancement of our societies and our common humanity.

In 2020, the destruction of significant sites in the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia caused irreversible loss of First Nations’ cultural heritage. The destruction represented a failure to respect the rights of the local First Nations people to protect their sacred sites and enjoy a deep and spiritual connection to their land. Harm caused to the lands, culture and heritage of First Nations has a deep and often irreversible impact on communities, and represents a loss for the world’s heritage.

The potential for companies to impact First Nations people’s lands, communities and cultural heritage presents an increasingly recognised investment risk.   There is growing global scrutiny of companies’ interactions with First Nations people, and where company behaviour does not meet appropriate standards, the risk of significant investment loss is heightened.

Why is it important?

It is widely understood internationally that companies have a responsibility to respect human rights and cultural heritage of the communities that they impact. Risks and opportunities apply to companies operating across various sectors that impact First Nations communities. Failure to uphold the rights of First Nations people, including the right to protect and enjoy their lands and cultural heritage carries a significant human, social and financial cost.

Respecting the rights of First Nations people is intrinsically linked with managing a company’s long-term interests. Significant financial costs can arise from unconstructive relationships with First Nations people. These costs can stem from production implications, project cancellations or delays, legal fees, reputational damage, difficulties retaining employees, and even physical damage where conflict arises. Ultimately, a company’s long-term success and ability to operate can be undermined.

ACSI Policy

ACSI engages with relevant companies that face a material risk to understand how they are working to effectively manage and mitigate that risk. ACSI has developed a policy which outlines expectations of companies that engage with First Nations people.

ACSI has also developed a research paper that explores these issues in more detail and provides further guidance on good practice engagement with First Nations peoples. For more information, download the research paper here.

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