8 January 2020

Building trust and respect through cultural awareness

Whitehaven Coal in partnership with respected local Indigenous people and Elders continues to share local Indigenous culture and history with its workforce with many employees participating in the personalised on-country cultural immersion and face to face cultural awareness training in 2019. Additionally more than 1,800 contractors and new staff have completed the cultural awareness component of the Whitehaven induction process throughout 2019.

Cultural awareness training is a core commitment in the company’s Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan and aims to foster a workplace that encourages shared understanding and respect through listening and practical learning.

This year the training was conducted in partnership with the Winanga-Li Aboriginal Family and Children Centre and led by Elder and Centre Manager Wayne Griffiths.

Mr Griffiths spoke to Whitehaven staff about the work of the Winanga-Li in Aboriginal communities across North West NSW and the history of Gambu Ganuurru, an Aboriginal leader in the Gunnedah region in the 18th century. Whitehaven staff also visited some important local sites referenced in the historical account of Gambu Ganuurru.

Among the new faces at this year’s training was Jorge Moraga, General Manager of the Maules Creek Mine. Mr Moraga said it was an invaluable experience to engage with local history that has significance for his job on a daily basis.

“It was a great day of learning and an important step to fostering inclusion and diversity in our business and across our mine sites. Listening to local Elders and standing on significant cultural sites has a direct effect on how we interact with one another. Having that knowledge builds trust and respect.

“It also helps create a better working culture and an inclusive workplace. This helps us all make better, more informed and more considered decisions,” Mr Moraga said.

Aboriginal Community Relations Manager Bob Sutherland said the training resonated with those who attended.

“Gomeroi culture is alive and well in our local Indigenous communities. Cultural awareness training is pivotal in providing people with local contacts and hearing the stories that reflect where the Gomeroi people are from and the aspirations they have for their children and their community,” Mr Sutherland said.

In addition to annual workforce training, Whitehaven partners with programs that assist local Indigenous people access health and education services. This includes supporting the Winanga-Li, which has helped more children get to and from school and families access medical care, and the Girls’ Academy at Gunnedah High School, which aims to increase school attendance and improve Year 12 graduation rates.

Other practical measures Whitehaven invests in are outlined in the company’s Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). The Stretch RAP sets ambitious Indigenous employment targets and focuses on addressing disadvantage through initiatives in early childhood education and support, schooling, and skills development.

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