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Bechtel’s Impact Report

Taking the reconciliation challenge in Australia

  • By
    portrait of David Lawson
    David Lawson, Infrastructure Operations Manager, Asia Pacific
    portrait of Leigh Carter
    Leigh Carter, General Manager, Mining & Metals, Australia & Asia Pacific
    portrait of Mellissa Case
    Mellissa Case, Manager of Sustainability, Bechtel Mining and Metals
  • 31 March 2022

As part of Bechtel’s commitment to contribute 100 ideas to support the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Bechtel is starting its public reconciliation journey in Australia with the development of a Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan in collaboration with Reconciliation Australia.

Sustainable Development Goal #10: 

Reduce inequality within and among countries

10.2: By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status

Context and Impact

Australia’s First Nations  consist of two distinct cultural groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, representing approximately 3% of the Australian population today. Given their cultures, traditions, languages, and knowledge systems based on unique relationships with land, sea, and Country, First Nations peoples have diverse and complex concepts of development.

Consultation and agreement-making are critical to demonstrating respect when bridging the gap on issues affecting First Nations peoples’ lands and ancestral rights. Over recent years and decades, various societies have sought to address this, including truth and reconciliation efforts, legislative reforms, and constitutional reforms. Internationally, these efforts have included adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and institutions such as the International Finance Corporation establishing performance standards as minimum expectations for their clients. 

Many countries, including Australia, have formed organizations to build a society that values and recognizes indigenous cultures and heritage as a proud part of the national identity. Reconciliation Australia is an independent non-profit organization formed to promote and facilitate respect, trust, and positive relationships between the wider Australian community and First Nations. Its stated core purpose is to “inspire and enable all Australians to contribute to the reconciliation” of the nation based on five critical dimensions: race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity, unity, and historical acceptance. 

During the Australian National Reconciliation Week, an annual event which commemorates two significant milestones in the country’s reconciliation journey—the successful 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision—Reconciliation Australia put forward 20 Actions for Reconciliation in 2021, which challenged people to make reconciliation more than just a word and to take action to move from “Safe to Brave.” While many of its actions focused on individuals pushing traditional boundaries on diversity and inclusion, education, and action, it also challenged businesses and institutions to play their part in the reconciliation journey. 

Our approach

In 2021, Bechtel committed to making reconciliation part of our workplace culture and decision-making processes by developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) for Australia to expand access and opportunity for First Nations across our Australian projects and operations. 

In the past, Bechtel has worked with our customers to help them achieve their RAP outcomes through activities such as enhancing First Nations employment and business participation on our projects, knowledge sharing through cultural awareness training delivered by local traditional owners and recognizing the significance of events that celebrate Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander culture.

While we will continue to support these efforts, we recognize that we can have an even more significant impact by developing a RAP for our Australian operations that reflects our journey towards creating a positive legacy for reconciliation. Working in collaboration with Reconciliation Australia we have developed a Reflect RAP which focusses on three core elements to reconciliation: relationships, respect, and opportunities. Underpinned by our business objectives, the RAP further builds on the positive outcomes we have already achieved working with First Nations across Australia and outlines our commitments to increase awareness of First Nations cultures, histories, knowledge, and leadership.

Our solution

Reconciliation takes action, and Bechtel is joining more than 1,100 corporate, government, and not-for-profit organizations in Australia that have made formal commitments to reconciliation through the RAP program. The Reflect RAP will deepen our understanding of our sphere of influence and the unique contribution we can make to lead progress and provide meaningful impact toward Australia’s reconciliation journey.

In addition, we will use the experience from participating in Reconciliation Australia’s RAP program to transfer and share our knowledge and lessons learned to other projects where we work with indigenous peoples around the world, as well as within the EPC industry community. 

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