No one has done more for indigenous Australians than the mining industry – by Marcia Langton (The Australian – July 26, 2017)

Marcia Langton is foundation chair of Australian indigenous studies at the University of Melbourne.

Australians concerned about the “Uluru Statement from the Heart” and the subsequent Referendum Council call for constitutional reform and a Makarrata Commission should look to the mining industry as an example of what such change might bring.

The definition of the Makarrata Commission in the Uluru Statement is “the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination”.

Across the public, private and community sectors, no one has done more to advance a better future and self-determination for indigenous Australians than the mining industry, and to lead the transition from highly adversarial relationships to one of mutual respect, common goals, and partnerships through agreement.

The mining industry is the biggest private sector employer of indigenous Australians and by far the largest procurer of services from indigenous businesses. Over the past decade the mining industry has procured more than $5 billion dollars worth of services from indigenous businesses. By comparison all levels of government in all jurisdictions have procured less than 10 per cent of that value.

Prior to these developments, the relationship between miners and First Australians was ugly and conflictual. Over 150 years from the early 19th century gold rushes in Victoria, the mining industry, and governments of the day, worked in partnership to forcibly remove indigenous people from their land to ensure the mining companies could gain easy access to the resources below. In many instances the process of dispossession was brutal and permanent.

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