Photographer: Benjamin Warlngundu Ellis


Businesses and investors have a responsibility to respect First Nations Cultural Heritage, an integral part of the rich tapestry of Australia’s history and identity. They risk serious consequences, including financial, legal and reputational damage, if they falter.

Current laws and policies in Australia are, for the most part, unfit for the purpose of protecting and conserving First Nations Cultural Heritage. Due to the deficiencies in these laws, it is incumbent on businesses and investors to reach beyond legislative standards and implement leading practice for cultural heritage as defined by First Nations Peoples.

The Dhawura Ngilan Business and Investor Initiative is a First Nations-led project that provides resources to enable investors and business to pro-actively contribute to the Dhawura Ngilan Vision by achieving best practice throughout their strategies, operations, and business relationships.  Dhawura Ngilan means “Remembering Country" in the Ngunnawal language.

This Initiative is led by the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance in partnership with the Responsible Investment Association Australasia and UN Global Compact Network Australia.

The Initiative has translated the Dhawura Ngilan Vision for the private sector context into the following two documents that were launched on 19 in March 2024 in Canberra:

These documents provide authoritative advice on engaging with First Nations communities in a way that upholds the right to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) enshrined under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

These documents are also a useful resource for First Nations communities as a tool to hold the private sector to their commitments, and government agencies to guide their activities as project funders and proponents.

These are the only First Nations-led guides for businesses and investors on Indigenous cultural heritage protection in our region. We call upon businesses and investors to stand with us and set an example of leading practice, to ensure the protection, strength and endurance of First Nations Cultural Heritage for centuries to come.

Piloting the Guides - The Alliance is currently working with leading businesses and investors to pilot the guides in specific sectors.
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Dhawura Ngilan Business and Investor Guides Launch Event

The Dhawura Ngilan Business and Investor guides were launched on 19 March 2024 on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country at a high-profile event that celebrated First Nations culture and was attended by leaders from business, investment, First Nations representative organisations, and the media. 

The event began with Ngambri, Wallabalooa and Wiradjuri elder, Aunty Dr. Matilda House offering a gracious Welcome to Country. 

Rachel Perkins, an Arrente and Kalkadoon woman and Director of Cultural Heritage at the National Native Title Council, was the master of ceremonies.

The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, the Minister for the Environment and Water, delivered the first keynote speech, emphasising that the Dhawura Ngilan Business and Investor guides are directly relevant for government when they act as project proponents and funders. She outlined the government’s legislative reform agenda, including to Commonwealth cultural heritage laws and the development of a First Nations engagement standard under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. 

Allan James, a Tjupan and Martu man and Head of Indigenous Engagement at BHP, delivered the second keynote speech, highlighting that the responsibility for protecting First Nations cultural heritage lies with all of us, and that the guides will support business to work in true partnership with First Nations people, including to respect the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. 

Eric Avery a Ngiyampaa, Yuin, Bandjalang and Gumbangirr artist, captivated the audience with a special performance on vocals and violin.

The event concluded with an illustrious panel discussion chaired by Jamie Lowe, a Gundjitmara Djabwurrung man and CEO of the NNTC on the origins of the Initiative, development of the guides, the impact the guides will have for Traditional Owners and the plans for their implementation moving forward. The panellists were:

  • Cath Brokenborough, a Wiradjuri First Nations woman and Executive Lead for First Nations engagement and reconciliation at Lendlease. 
  • Dr Terri Janke, a Wuthathi, Yadhaigana and Meriam woman and international authority on Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP). 
  • Gary Dean, the Director of Native Title & Agreements at PKKP Aboriginal Corporation. 
  • David Bunting, the Head of Cultural Heritage, Minerals Australia at BHP.  
  • Claire Heeps, Manager of Responsible Investment at HESTA. 

Click here to access the event photo gallery.