Australia is home to the world’s oldest, continuous living culture. For more than 65,000 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have cared for this country, its land and sea.

At the time of writing, Australia and the world are experiencing an unprecedented event with a global pandemic. Globalisation has brought into sharp focus both our collective humanity and vulnerability.

This new appreciation of our interconnectedness has also resonated on other social issues. The Black Lives Matter movement has created a unique moment for society, and for organisations, to consider their role in stopping racism and to being more inclusive and less biased.

At the same time, some businesses that have traditionally led the charge in regard to Indigenous people’s rights, have made serious missteps – decisions that have had heartbreaking consequences and rattled the entire business community with regard to its responsibility to do no harm.

Rather than retreat, companies are looking to better understand how and why these issues have occurred and how to prevent future mistakes – and Indigenous communities, society and internal stakeholders are holding business to account.

Endorsed by Indigenous peoples around the world, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“the Declaration”), provides an international legal framework for how organisations can best engage in ways that respect, protect and promote the rights of Indigenous Peoples. At its basis, the Declaration provides a risk management framework for organisations to engage in business with First Nations Peoples. But when adopted and embraced fully, it can be so much more.

The purpose of this guide is to provide practical guidance for business to understand, respect, support and embed the rights of Indigenous Australians into business practices. It draws upon the 2013 United Nations (UN) Global Compact International Business Reference Guide (PDF 2.8MB), and is tailored specifically for businesses operating in Australia and embedding a rights-based approach as it relates to Indigenous Australians.

Six fundamental actions for businesses to address

  1. Adopt and implement a clear statement of policy (whether on a stand-alone basis or within a broader human rights policy or code of conduct) addressing Indigenous Peoples’ rights and committing the business to respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights.
  2. Conduct human rights due diligence to assess actual or potential adverse impacts on Indigenous Peoples’ rights, integrate findings and take action, track and communicate externally on performance.
  3. Consult in good faith with Indigenous Peoples in relation to all matters that may affect them or their rights.
  4. Commit to obtain (and maintain) the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Peoples for projects that affect their rights, in line with the spirit of the Declaration.
  5. Establish or cooperate with an effective and culturally appropriate grievance mechanism.
  6. Provide for or cooperate in remediation for any adverse impacts on Indigenous Peoples’ rights which the business identifies it has caused or contributed to.
Six fundamental actions for business infographic

Whether you are at the start of your journey, or more advanced, we hope you find this guide useful and re-commit to engaging in new and respectful ways with Indigenous Peoples, their businesses and communities.

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