Northern Minerals earns social license to operate

Jaru Traditional Owners stand to benefit following a major announcement by rare earth miner Northern Minerals.

Almost three years after KRED Enterprises and Jaru Traditional Owners negotiated a native title agreement with Northern Minerals, the company’s board has finally approved a $56m dollar pilot project at the Browns Range site, which is approximately 160km south east of Halls Creek.

Wayne Bergmann, the CEO of KRED Enterprises, says Northern Minerals are one of the few mining companies in the Kimberley that has earned a social license to operate.

“Northern Minerals are setting the standard for local participation—and not just among Indigenous people. I’m hopeful that the flow-on effects of this project will benefit all people and businesses in the area. It’s a game changer,” Mr Bergmann says.

The Jaru native title group finalised the Browns Range Project Co-existence Agreement at a meeting at Ringer Soak in June 2014. The Agreement makes provisions for a comprehensive benefits package.

“The benefits package includes financial benefits, share options and support to sustain Jaru heritage, law and culture. Northern Minerals will also carry out a full social and cultural impact assessment in conjunction with KRED and Jaru, and will prioritise employment and contracting opportunities for Jaru people that will increase over the life of the mine,” Mr Bergmann says.

“It’s important that Aboriginal people are seen as part of economic development, not a hindrance to development. In this instance, Northern Minerals has demonstrated good will and the outcomes have been positive,” Mr Bergmann says.

Indigenous leader welcomes scrapping of DAA

Wayne Bergmann, the CEO of KRED Enterprises, welcomes the new state Labor government's enthusiasm for Indigenous reform, after the government announced last week that they'd be scrapping the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA).

Bergmann says the new government has an opportunity to get Indigenous reforms right and to achieve a proper realignment with the realities of native title.

"The Department of Aboriginal Affairs was slow, cumbersome, and represented a ball and chain around the advancement of Aboriginal groups. It was also ineffective in fulfilling its statutory obligations under the Aboriginal Heritage Act and the Aboriginal Lands Trust," Mr Bergmann says.

Across Western Australia, Aboriginal people who have worked at the forefront of Indigenous rights and services, have a wealth of knowledge about what's effective and what isn't when it comes to Indigenous affairs. Mr Bergmann says it's time to draw on this knowledge.

"I call on the Hon. Ben Wyatt to engage with Aboriginal leaders to create a new model for Indigenous affairs, one that's streamlined, inclusive and values the knowledge on the ground," Mr Bergmann says.   

"I propose the development of an independent statutory body to set the policy and service agenda, one which has been elected by Traditional Owners around the state. We need an independent body that's adept at handling the new realities of native title, including the recognition of native title as a property right," Mr Bergmann says.

"The WA state government has a unique opportunity here to set the standard for state Indigenous affairs across Australia."

Presentation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Eight years ago Australia reversed its position and adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). But the realisation of these rights is beyond the reach of Aboriginal people in Australia due to:
- the black letter law (State and Commonwealth);
- the implementation of domestic law.
There’s an obvious lack of political will to enable Indigenous peoples to realise the full extent of their rights as enshrined under UNDRIP. Click here for the full presentation. 

Getting away with blue murder

In 2017, Wayne Bergmann will have a semi-regular segment on Goolarri Radio with Sandy Dann. Here are some extracts from their conversation on the 8th February 2017. 

I think we need to reaffirm our cultural identity. This year’s (already) been a big year for our Kimberley mob. There’s a lot younger people coming back and following their grass roots cultural connections. They’ve had a big mob of ceremonies with kids going through law at Jarlmadangah, One Arm Point, Fitzroy and Balgo. You have law and culture happening everywhere. And it’s still going on. I feel refreshed, with a lot of energy.

This decade has got to be the decade of Indigenous economic independence. The real hallmarks of First Nation’s people have to be asserting our private property rights and having the Australian legal system recognise our property rights. When we wake up in the morning, we don’t wake up and say, “Oh let’s get more government funding.” We want to be proud, and independent. We want our land to look after us, as well as we look after it. It’s the basis of generating our well-being. And whether that’s through making a balance with economic development or protecting areas, that’s our right to self-determination. We determine what we can live with.

The challenge now, is determining what should and shouldn’t happen on country.

[One of the issues we’re facing at the moment], is that the WA state government does not guarantee that mining companies or developers employ regional people—white or black. We are seeing our small businesses in Broome and throughout the Kimberley being swamped by outside companies coming in to build major infrastructure.

With the Aboriginal population in this region sitting at around fifty percent, I would expect to see a minimum of fifty percent Aboriginal contracts and employment. But if we don’t shake this tree, our mob will miss out. And what happens, when those [outside] workers get paid? They go back to their homes, spend money in their own communities. We need to make sure that money lands in the pockets of local people to build the economy of our own region. That’s what I mean when I say this needs to be the decade of Indigenous economic development.

I’m currently preparing a letter to go to the Prime Minister about minimum national standards. When I chaired the COAG Indigenous Expert Working Group, I saw the variation between agreements [with companies], from Western Australia, to the Northern Territory, to the New South Wales coast and Queensland. I saw a shameful variation in agreements. You cannot negotiate with people who have no information, or no idea about good standards. Companies are coming in with all the knowledge and are striking deals so low that it’s not possible for people to pull themselves out of social dependency, out of government dependency, out of welfare.

Why am I saying this?

Because as a nation, we’re paying for it as tax payers. If mining companies don’t do proper deals and don’t have proper social impacts at the front end, then government pays at the backend through fixing up social dysfunction because none of us have jobs. This is not just a blackfella issue: this is a national issue. Every citizen in Australia should be saying, let’s get this right, let’s create national standards where companies have to pay their fair share. These deals have to be done for us to get economic freedom, to become economically independent of government.

I’m not anti-mining, but I am anti-people taking advantage of Traditional Owners. At the moment, I don’t think the balance is right.

I think some companies are getting away with blue murder.

Raquell spears scholarship at Christ Church

Raquell Bin Rashid has been chased by sharks while spear fishing. He’s a record-breaking school athlete. He knows all the keyboard cheats. 

A Karajarri, Nimanburr, Bardi and Yawuru man, Raquell has received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Christ Church Grammar in Perth—and he starts year 8 in a couple of weeks! It’s a big move, Broome to Perth, but Raquell’s keen for the experience. In an essay explaining why, he writes,  

“I am a positive young boy who likes to take on new challenges and give it my best shot. I am very passionate about my sports, especially basketball and football …”

“I would like to be a leader and a good role model, especially for my people here in the Kimberley. I’m very keen to learn about other cultures and places. I want to learn to be independent from my family and to make them proud,” Raquell writes.

It’s no small thing, scoring a scholarship to Christ Church. The acceptance process is rigorous, nerve-wracking, demanding not only interviews of potential students, but also interviews of parents. Still, the Grammar has a strong record of supporting other Aboriginal kids from Broome.  

“My cousin Brodie Albert, and my Uncle, Jerry Ansey, also went to Christ Church. They spoke really highly of the school,” Raquell says.  

While he won’t get to spear any Bluebone or Spanish Flag down in Perth, there will be plenty of study, footy, basketball, and maybe even a few trips to Timezone!

“I want to follow my dreams to become an AFL player, or maybe a mechanic,” Raquell says.

KRED Enterprises is proud to support Raquell by awarding him a Nipper Tabagee Scholarship to help him achieve his dreams. For more info on the Nipper Tabagee Scholarships, head to the scholarship page on our website.