Reconciliation Starts With Respect

Australia, GFG Alliance, Leadership > 11th November, 2020

Respecting difference and acknowledging we are stronger together is part of our organisational DNA.

It goes in hand with our value of family – we treat all stakeholders as members of our extended ‘GFG family’.

As part of our evolution, and acknowledging the role we play in working with and supporting Indigenous communities in Australia, we are developing a GFG Alliance Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

The RAP, to be developed by a governance group, will set a framework for how GFG Alliance businesses in Australia continue their work towards reconciliation.

It will consolidate and formalise our long-running approach to partnering with Indigenous nations, people and businesses, like Walga Mining Services in Whyalla, in regional South Australia.

Walga Mining Services, a 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned and controlled company employs a number of employees from the Barngarla nation and has long provided contracted services to SIMEC Mining as part of our extended workforce. Walga aims to upskill local Aboriginal people into key leadership roles within the company and assists in training and education for Indigenous youth to become self-supporting. It has set a target to have 40% Indigenous employment by 2025.

Led by executive director Elliott McNamara, and his daughter and General Manager Karina (pictured above), Walga provides crushing and screening, material handling and train loading activities at our South Australian Iron Knob site, a region rich in Aboriginal heritage.

“The relationship that we’ve built and still have with SIMEC on site is great,” Karina says. “People may wear different shirts, but everyone’s working for the same team.”

Jacqui Higgins, Head of SIMEC Mining’s Hematite Operations, says the partnership has been mutually beneficial and echoes Karina’s view about the strong sense of teamwork.

“It’s been great to work with the Walga team over the last few years and also see the capability of the Walga business and it’s people,” Jacqui says. “They’ve gone from crushing and screening to taking on beneficiation plants in the last 18 months and developing capability for load and haul applications.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the Walga business as we develop the Iron Knob mining operations over the coming years.”

Good business practice is particularly evident in WALGA’s excellent workplace safety, with the company receiving a SIMEC Safety Excellence Award for recording two years without a lost-time injury.

Future opportunities

A feature of GFG Alliance’s Cultana Solar Farm initiative, north of Whyalla, is the goal to recruit from the local community with a focus also on Indigenous employment and upskilling.

The SIMEC Energy Australia project, one of the largest solar farm initiatives in Australia, is forecast to create around 700 direct jobs during its construction phase, with about 10 ongoing operation and maintenance positions comprising skilled trades.

SIMEC Energy Australia Chief Executive Officer Marc Barrington says the company is committed to upskilling and the involvement of Indigenous people to meet the employment needs of the initiative.

“We have an apprenticeship programme that has a focus on local Indigenous people,” Marc says. “That programme feeds into our 25-year operation and maintenance regime.”

Nurturing culture and sharing stories to create strong, vibrant communities

GFG’s commitment to strengthening communities extends beyond business partnerships to cultural events and the arts.

In 2019, the Gupta Family Group proudly supported the innovative Yabarra: Gathering of Light immersive installation at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. ’Yabarra’ used light and sound to share stories of First Nation culture along Adelaide’s River Torrens (pictured above).

The partnership extended to supporting the UNEARTH arts and cultural festival at Whyalla.

Across our Australian businesses, GFG is actively exploring, making connections and supporting opportunities large and small across communities to partner with Indigenous groups to grow broader community awareness and respect for indigenous people. Promotion and participation in local events and activities are key in building stronger connections and respect within local Indigenous groups.

During NAIDOC Week 2020, many sites and offices are holding local events.

In Whyalla, NAIDOC Week 2020 sees the active promotion of local events to employees and encouragement to get involved. Events include the screening of Nunga films or entering the local Indigenous family fun golf day. Engagement within and outside the boundaries of the business is critical in providing the opportunity for stronger personal and business links, friendships and respect to established.

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