Engagement guide

How do I engage with traditional owners?

Introduction

This section provides a general overview and tips on how to better engage and work effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, organisations and communities across northern Australia. This information is intended to assist stakeholders to understand culturally responsive engagement approaches to engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, organisations and communities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are diverse and have different beliefs, customs, traditions, social structures and cultural practices. This information is a general guide only and does not attempt to represent all views and approaches undertaken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across northern Australia. This guide is not intended to be a step-by-step guide, but rather a general introduction with key considerations for engagement. Your engagement approach needs to be tailored in each situation and underpinned by culturally responsive engagement.

The overriding considerations for anyone seeking to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are:

  • All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are different
  • You need to allow sufficient time for effective engagement. It is best to engage in the early stages of project design, rather than leaving it to final stages. Be prepared to develop relationships over time
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the right to free, prior and informed consent, that is, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the right to participate in decisions that affect them.

As an investor you should know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are not opposed to development. There are many examples in northern Australia of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities who have allowed development to occur on their land. They do, however, want to have sufficient time to consider developments that affect their community interests and rights, including their property, land, sea and water rights.

What does culturally responsive engagement mean?

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are treated with respect and dignity.
  • Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' unique relationship to the land, sea and water ways.
  • Engagement practices and approaches are culturally sensitive, respectful and flexible.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are informed and receive timely responses about potential, existing and future negotiation and engagement processes and their right to be actively engaged in decision-making.
  • Engagement practices empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to make informed decisions about all the options that are available to them.
  • Respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and community privacy and confidentiality should be maintained by all stakeholders who are involved in collecting and storing information.
  • Consistent advice and detailed information is provided to traditional owners about the engagement and negotiation processes and the right to have a chosen representative and/or advocate attending all meetings and negotiations.