Creating a more respectful, diverse and inclusive company will help us become a better partner and deliver a greater social impact in host communities and countries. We know we need to do better and are determined to make a change.”
- Jakob Stausholm, Chief Executive
An important step towards rebuilding our relationship
This year we recognised two years since the destruction of the rock shelters on the land of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people at our Brockman iron ore mine in the Pilbara.
In May, we entered a co-management heads of agreement with the PKKP Aboriginal Corporation. This agreement is an important step towards rebuilding our relationship with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people and sets out how we will work together in partnership on approach to mining activities on Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Country.
At the time, PKKP Aboriginal Corporation Chairman Burchell Hayes said the last two years had been, and would continue to be, incredibly painful for the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, but there had also been ongoing effort to build a relationship with Rio Tinto.
“This agreement provides clear acknowledgement that Rio Tinto accepts that the destruction of the rock shelters should not have happened and makes clear that it is absolutely committed to listening, learning, changing and co-managing country,” Mr Hayes said in a PKKP Corporation statement.
While the agreement is non-binding, we believe it is a clear signal of intent from Rio Tinto and one that will ultimately be tested in the co-management agreement that is reached.”
Simon Trott, Chief Executive Iron Ore said that as a company, we continue to reflect on the loss at Juukan Gorge and hurt that we caused, and we are grateful for the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people’s ongoing engagement with us.
“The PKKP people have graciously shared their knowledge to help inform our approach to best practice management and protection of cultural heritage as well as how we can deliver better social and economic outcomes on the ground.
“We know we have a responsibility to help shape a better future – by seeking out, listening to, respecting and being responsive to Indigenous voices and perspectives,” Simon said.
There is a new sense of pride being an Indigenous leader at Rio now.
“You can feel a momentum and energy shift. As a leader, there is no time to sit in the shadows, we all need to step up. It doesn’t matter if we’re uncomfortable, nervous or don’t have all the answers. We all have a role to play and I believe people can see the difference we are making and the new direction we are heading as a business.
“For me, the Emerging Indigenous Executive Leadership Program was a game changer. I’ve done other leadership programmes, but it’s always a Western focused perspective of what leadership should be. EIELP focused on embracing our Indigenous values and personal experience and allowed us to feel confident to ‘walk in two worlds’ and bring our true self to work. I felt so proud hearing the stories and journeys from everyone in the EIELP group – it was a really powerful energy in the room, and we created such a strong bond with each other.
“When you’re succeeding as an Indigenous leader, you’re not winning for yourself, you’re winning for your whole mob. This is why I am so passionate about Social Investment and the work I do at Rio Tinto; I am committed to driving positive change to the people and communities around me.
After graduating from the cadetship and getting a good few years’ experience across the country on various sites the support for my development really dropped off and I felt I was on my own.
“The Emerging Indigenous Leadership Programme (EILP) has really made a difference. I’ve managed to make a step-change in my personal development and become a more confident leader. Not only did I get guidance, but it helped me better connect with our Indigenous cohort. This connection is so important because together we share a lot of ideas and we’re a lot stronger. The EIELP course was also the first leadership programme I’ve been involved in that had culture as a centrepiece. From the very beginning, it was delivered in a way that is culturally safe.
“As a cohort, we all had common ground. And with that, we were able to build a level of trust very quickly. And then with the trust came vulnerability and in this safe environment, we gained confidence. Confidence meant we have a lot more drive, a lot more influence and the ability to make change if we want to see a difference across the business and in our communities.
“I can understand why people may feel reluctant to participate in programmes like this – it can feel tokenistic, but I really encourage anyone who is thinking of doing it, or something similar, to go for it. I took the chance and got to connect with likeminded colleagues, some really clever people, and create a connection between leaders as a support network that you can tap into across the business – for me, that in itself was really helpful”.
Kurt is a Wiradjuri man who started with us 15 years ago as one of the first Indigenous cadets. He is now a Project Manager based in Western Australia working on some of our major iron ore mine development and closure projects.
Indigenous employees in Australia
Indigenous leaders in Australia (November 2020: 6 leaders)
Indigenous graduates in Australia
Increase in spend with Australian Indigenous businesses since 2020
Indigenous business figures include Traditional Owner business that are affiliated with Indigenous groups that have Land Use Agreements in place around our Australian assets.
Helping careers take off
Finding a job after high school can be daunting for any new graduate. But when you grow up in the remote Kimberley region in Western Australia, fewer employers and less access to training are extra challenges to add to the list.
So in partnership with Derby District High School, we’re working to offer their students more career options with a programme that sets graduates up for success in the exciting and emerging field of drone aviation.
Since 2021, we’ve been funding a Remote Drone Pilot License Course at the school. The programme – which prepares participants to fly drones for fields like mining, defence, photography, search and rescue, tourism, ranger and station work – equips students with a Remote Drone Pilot License qualification through the ACE Aviation Aerospace Academy, and a Certificate III in Aviation.
"We hope that by supporting initiatives like this, we can help equip students with new skills and empower them for new opportunities," said Kent, our General Manager for Yandicoogina Operations.
The course is the only one of its kind in the Kimberley and is nationally accredited through the ACE Aviation Aerospace Academy.
"The programme has changed the lives of students and builds their confidence," said Mohammed, Deputy Principal at Derby District High School. "It has brought the students and the community of Derby together.”
The 2021 cohort’s graduates have already started on promising career pathways because of their new qualifications.
And we’re fortunate that 4 of those 14 graduates have already chosen to join our business.
Kezia'a is one of these 2021 graduates, who’s joined our Perth Operations Centre as an ATAS Trainee Train Controller. When she finishes her traineeship, she’ll add a Certificate IV in Rail Network Control to her list of qualifications.
"The course makes a big difference to a young person's life and creates opportunities for them," she said.
“Learning the procedures and applying critical thinking while flying the drones are important skills I’ve got out of the course that will help me with my new role at the Operations Centre.”
Another 2021 programme graduate, Jasmine, has accepted an Administration Trainee role at our Marandoo operation in the West Pilbara.
“I am definitely excited about starting a new career and learning new skills which will help develop not only my career but also myself,” said Jasmine.
“By doing the drone course at school and achieving my certificate III in Aviation, I met a few people from Rio Tinto and they really helped me get the job I have now. I am hoping that students who think school is nothing but a waste of time will understand the experience and opportunities school can give you, because without school I probably wouldn’t have the job that I have now.”
We’ve committed to an additional 3 years of funding for the programme, with 21 students now enrolled in the 2022 cohort.