• While Rio Tinto's demolition of the Juukan caves caused widespread outrage, such cultural destruction is commonplace in Australia. (AAP)Source: AAP
The National Native Title Council says time will tell if the new leadership team at mining giant Rio Tinto will deliver on its promises, after the Juukan Gorge disaster.
Brooke Fryer

29 Jan 2021 - 7:04 PM  UPDATED 29 Jan 2021 - 7:04 PM

The National Native Title Council's CEO Jamie Lowe has doubts an executive restructure at mining giant Rio Tinto will deliver any change in protecting cultural heritage. 

The mining company has unveiled its new leadership team after the former CEO and several other executives resigned following the Juukan Gorge scandal.

The new board says it's committed to rebuilding trust within Australia following the destruction of the 46,000 thousand year old rock shelters last May in the Pilbara. 

Mr Lowe told NITV News, time will tell if much change will come from the restructure. 

"Actions will speak louder than words so we will see what will happen in the short, medium and long-term," he said. 

"There's not a whole lot of new bodies being brought in to create that significant shift, so hopefully the new CEO (Jakob Stausholm) can deliver on some of the promises they are talking about.

"We're always optimistic but we are also realists as well.... And time will tell with these matters, I think." 

Last September, Mr Lowe wrote to Rio Tinto calling for an executive overhaul and for large scale cultural change.

"Obviously we've been calling for some change at Rio Tinto, so the reshuffle is welcome but I guess the cultural change and the cultural shift within the organisation remains to be seen," he said. 

The decision from the company to blow up Juukan Gorge saw an outcry of disappointment and sadness from Indigenous communities.

Mr Lowe said that while the company works to mend relationships within communities, there is still a systemic issue that needs to be addressed.

"Someone from a First Nations background would have been ideal on the executive team... The further you go down the pecking order, the harder it is to create substantive change within the organisation," he said. 

As part of the reshuffle, the company created a new position – chief executive Australia – which will be filled by Kellie Parker, who grew up in the Pilbara.  

Ms Parker - who is now Managing Director of Pacific Operations Aluminium - will oversee the company’s aluminium operations in Australia and New Zealand.

“Australia is of utmost importance to Rio Tinto and we have a lot of work ahead of us to rebuild relationships across the country," she said in a statement. 

"I care deeply about Rio, our people and the communities where we operate.

"Having worked in operations from the Pilbara to Far North Queensland, I know first-hand just how important strong relationships are for a company like ours to be respected and successful, and just what the consequences are when we don’t get it right." 

Six of the 13 executives in the new board are from Australia, however only three are based in the country.

Mr Lowe said this remains a concern "in regards to protecting heritage".   

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