Land Council withdraws Rio Tinto Investments

29 June 2020

Land Council Withdraws Rio Tinto Investments

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC), one of Australia’s largest Aboriginal membership based organisations has instructed its fund managers to withdraw millions of dollars of investments in Rio Tinto following the miner’s destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal site at Juukan Gorge in WA’s Pilbara region.

NSWALC CEO, James Christian said the Council and members are outraged that a mining company professing a commitment to working with Aboriginal people could show such callous disregard for cultural heritage.

“Rio Tinto was once rightly regarded as a leader in building positive relationships with Aboriginal people, but this is no longer the case,” Mr Christian said.

“Until Rio Tinto can demonstrate that it is not planning the destruction of other sites of cultural significance, we will let our money do the talking. We call on other investment holders to do the same.”

NSWALC’s investment in Rio Tinto is a small fraction of the Land Council’s investment portfolio.

“This will also put other companies on notice that we intend to act. We are socially and morally responsible for what we invest in – when companies conduct themselves with disregard for the impact on our people, we will take action,” Mr Christian said.

The move comes as NSWALC has become a member of an alliance with other large Aboriginal Land Councils and Native Title bodies to push for the reform of Australia’s archaic Aboriginal heritage laws and practices.

The new alliance, which includes the Central, Northern, Kimberley and Cape York Land Councils, the National Native Title Council, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and leading academic, Professor Marcia Langton has called for a moratorium on the destruction of cultural heritage sites until the reform of laws is complete.

“It’s time for industry and governments to understand our distress, our hurt and our concern and work with us,” Mr Christian said.

“While the Pilbara is currently hitting headlines, it is only the tip of the iceberg – governments across the political spectrum over many years have not cared enough to protect Aboriginal heritage.”

“The national alliance is calling on all Australians to send a very clear message to government and industry that enough is enough. We are calling for an urgent review of heritage legislation at Federal, State and Territory level,” Mr Christian said.

“We are calling for a moratorium on any works that could impact Aboriginal cultural heritage. It’s really imperative that governments – Federal and State and Territory – sit with us and design improvements because it will require a unified approach.”