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We work in partnership with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people connected to the land where we operate
Our operations in North West NSW take place on Gomeroi Country (also known as Kamilaroi, Gamilaroi or Gamilaraay), one of the four largest Aboriginal nations in Australia. In Queensland’s Bowen Basin, our proposed new Winchester South Project is located on Barada Barna Country.
We acknowledge Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First People of Australia. We recognise the Gomeroi People of North West NSW and the Barada Barna People of Central Queensland as the Traditional Owners of the land on which we operate and recognise their role as custodians of the land and water.
We aim to work together to empower local communities and help create stronger families and futures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the areas around our operations.
Our approach is specifically designed to be intergenerational in nature. We are focused on helping to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through initiatives in the areas of early childhood education and support, schooling, skills development and employment.
This holistic approach provides intergenerational support for children and their families, our employees and prospective employees, so local people see their immediate needs being addressed, in addition to creating the socio-economic preconditions for future generations to grow and prosper.
Our Indigenous Employment Strategy helps transform and empower the lives of local Indigenous men and women through meaningful and well-paid work.
In 2015, we set an ambitious target of 10% of our workforce at Maules Creek, our newest and largest mine, identifying as Indigenous. We have exceeded that target every year since, and now around 20% of our Maules Creek workforce identifies as Indigenous. Across our broader workforce, around 11.8% identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
Our approach goes beyond developing opportunities for employment. We invest in areas where we can make a substantial and sustainable difference, including across health, education, employment and procurement. Our second Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan details our specific initiatives in these areas.
of the workforce identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people
was spent with 16 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suppliers
donated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations
For a deeper look at how we empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, refer to our
Sustainability Report 2023.
Our engagement with First Nations people is built around the principles of respect, unity and historical acceptance, and a belief that mining should empower First Nations peoples’ and support their rights to pursue cultural and socio-economic fulfilment.
Our approach is oriented to making a practical and meaningful contribution to addressing disadvantage among First Nations people through targeted investment in health, education and skills development.
We are the largest private sector employer of First Nations people in regional NSW. Around 11.8% of our workforce identifies as First Nations people and at Maules Creek, our largest mine, the proportion is around 20%.
We support the preservation of cultural heritage by recognising and respecting the importance of the depth of knowledge of sites, places and objects that are significant to telling the story of First Nations ancient and abiding association with Australia.
Our heritage surveys are conducted in partnership with Traditional Owners and cultural knowledge holders from local communities to identify and protect areas and objects of significance consistent with our statutory obligations and in consultation with local First Nations people.
We want to create and sustain an inclusive and knowledgeable workplace where our workforce understand and respect the importance of the connection of First Nations people to the land. Our work is supported by cultural awareness training which is delivered to all new employees and contractors by First Nations people connected to the land where we operate.
We engage with First Nations people to ensure we understand expectations around the management of cultural areas of significance. Management measures such as cultural heritage management plans are in place to meet our commitments in-line with agreements and legislative approvals.
Management practices informed by respect for culture and knowledge support both recognition of culturally significant heritage and responsible minerals development.
It is important for cultural heritage and mining to co-exist in Australia and we are committed to working with First Nations people, the government and industry to achieve the best outcomes.
Whitehaven supports improvements to native title and state and territory land rights regimes that support efficiency, stability and economic opportunity. Frameworks should be practically-focused with changes supported by adequate resourcing to achieve intended mutually beneficial outcomes.
Reconciliation Action Plan
In 2021, we launched our third Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which is our second Stretch RAP. Our RAP outlines the initiatives that support our commitment to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples and organisations, and focuses on the areas where we can make a substantial and sustainable difference, including across health, education, employment and procurement.
Read our Reconciliation Action Plan here.
Supporting Indigenous health and education
We partner with programs that help people in our communities access health and education services. A key partner is the Winanga-Li Aboriginal Child and Family Centre in Gunnedah and Narrabri, which has been able to help more children get to and from school, and help families access medical care, thanks to two minibuses purchased by Whitehaven Coal. With our support, Winanga-Li has been able to expand its operations into Lightning Ridge and Brewarrina.
We also support the Girls’ Academy at Gunnedah High School, which aims to increase school attendance, advance academic and personal achievement, improve Year 12 graduation rates, and facilitate post-school transition planning. Each year, around 50 girls from years 7 to 12 benefited and school attendance rates increased from 72% to 85% over the years. In December 2020, the federal government contract with the Girls Academy was not renewed and a new provider was appointed. While Gunnedah High School has decided to place its participation on hold in 2021, we continue to work with the school and others to identify an alternative initiative to support young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in our region.
We’ve also supported the establishment of a Clontarf Academy, which uses football as a means to help keep young Indigenous boys and men in school, at Narrabri High School.
Partnering with the Clontarf Foundation
The Clontarf Foundation aims to improve the education, discipline, life skills, self-esteem and employment prospects of young Indigenous boys and men, using football as a means to attract, reward and help keep them in school. Since 2000, the Foundation has grown to more than 9,700 Indigenous students participating in programs across the country.
Whitehaven Coal has been working with the Clontarf Foundation since 2016, engaging with students from the Clontarf Academies at Tamworth and Quirindi through regional Employment Forums and site visits to demonstrate the diverse range of rewarding mining career opportunities.
In 2019, we committed $120,000 over three years to help establish an academy at Narrabri High School, with 78 students participating by 2022. School attendance amongst Clontarf students at Narrabri High is 70% compared to 53% amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students before the Academy was established.
In 2022 we extended our partnership for a further three years as a national partner organisation, with Clontarf working towards opening an academy in Gunnedah in the near future.
Engagement with the Barada Barna People in Queensland
Following the acquisition of the Winchester South Project in mid-2018, one of the first stakeholder groups we reached out to was the Barada Barna People. The Barada Barna People are the Traditional Owners of the land in central Queensland where the Winchester South Project is located. In FY19 we entered into a Cultural Heritage Management Plan agreement with the Barada Barna – the first agreement we entered into for the Winchester South Project.
Gomeroi Narrabri People Charitable Trust Fund
The Gomeroi Narrabri People Charitable Trust Fund was created in 2017 after Narrabri Coal, a subsidiary of Whitehaven Coal, entered into a Native Title agreement with the Gomeroi Narrabri People. The trust funds are to be used for the benefit of Indigenous Australians, including the Gomeroi Narrabri people, located in the Narrabri Shire, in support of the Gomeroi Narrabri Aboriginal Corporation’s vision to be an “effective enterprise that sustains and nurtures out culture, education, employment and our kids.”