A mining training centre and bauxite mining operation established by the Gumatj Corporation in the North East Arnhem Land was officially opened today at the 19th annual Garma Festival.
The Gulkula Regional Training Centre and Gulkula mining operation are 100 per cent owned by the Gumatj clan, with the aim to deliver sustainable economic benefits for local Yolngu people.
The announcement was made at a signing ceremony attended by Gumatj clan leader Galarrwauy Yunupingu with mining giant Rio Tinto committing to purchase bauxite produced from the new mine.
Gumatj Corporation CEO Klaus Helms said it was a significant day for local Yolngu people and Indigenous communities far and wide.
"The commencement of a 100 per cent Indigenous-owned training centre and mining operation is a testament to what Indigenous people can achieve working in partnership with business and government –this a major step forward in building a sustainable future for our local people,” he said.
Located on the Dhupuma Plateau in Northeast Arnhem Land, the regional training centre is adjacent to the Gulkula mine, a small-scale bauxite operation which will deliver on-the-job training for participants.
Mr Helms says with Rio Tinto’s support, Yolngu people can now receive on-the-job-training through Gumatj mining operations.
“The skills they develop will open up opportunities for them to build careers in the mining industry in the Northern Territory and beyond,” he said.
Speaking at an economic and business development session at the festival, Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion says the Gumatj Corporation has full control of the operation and training centre.
“One hundred per cent of the decisions are made by Gumatj, they make the tough decisions. They are going to be a successful enterprise, because of the innovation, because they are such smart people. They’re not observers, waiting for the royalties or waiting for the rent to be paid,” he said.
Michael Rose is Chairman of the Indigenous Engagement Taskforce of the Business Council of Australia.
He says while economic sustainability comes with its challenges it is essential in moving forward.
“There are a number of issues that arise from sustainable economic, cultural issues, and social sustainability like women in employment, childcare, which communities are best placed to answer. And of course the issue of economic sustainability is absolutely essential,” he said during the forum.
"[Economic sustainability] is tied to empowerment of communities, and directly tied to the recognition of First Nations. There is a real desire for people here to get on with the serious business of economic development.”
Klaus Helms says the Gumatj Corporation have an open door policy if there is any doubt over the mining operation.
“The operation is one hundred per cent supported by the community, because this has to do with the region. What we’re saying is there are boarding schools being put up and we said what is gonna happen when they leave Year 12, who is going to employ them,” he told NITV.
“What we’re saying is that we’re put them straight into a training school, and we will get you a job.”
The Gumatj Corporation, which currently employs 65 Yolgnu people through small business, builds sustainable local industries that benefit the traditional landowners and the clans of Northeast Arnhem Land.