Australia Corporate Alert

By: Clive CachiaLisa LautierJim BullingMichael HainAdam LevineAyman GuirguisRynier BrandtDhivya KalyanakumarBernard SiaCathy MaNathan BodlovichHarrison Langsford

Dhawura Ngilan: The Role of Investors in Protecting First Nations Heritage

The Australian legislative framework has often been challenged on its ability to protect First Nations cultural heritage and there are allegations it is currently out of step with international legal standards, including the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

RIAA has come together with the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance and UN Global Compact Network to produce Dhawura Ngilan (Remembering Country): A Vision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage, a comprehensive guide (Guide) on ‘free, prior and informed consent’ (FPIC) and First Nations heritage, for businesses and investors.

Rachel Perkins, prominent Australian film and television director, and Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman, publicised the launch at the RIAA Conference 2024 held in Sydney on 1 May 2024.

The Guide directs the private sector to contribute to a new standard of First Nations-led best practice for cultural heritage management in Australia, setting out practical advice on how to manage portfolios in a way that will identify and eliminate or mitigate negative impacts on Country, heritage sites, knowledge and places as agreed by First Nations communities through a process of FPIC.

Investors can implement Dhawura Ngilan across investment activities, including by:

  • Incorporating cultural heritage considerations into a range of responsible investment approaches and considering impacts on cultural heritage through cause, contribution or direct link;
  • Using stewardship to incorporate cultural heritage as part of engagement and voting, on behalf of clients and beneficiaries, to monitor performance and hold investee companies accountable for their public commitments and to ensure FPIC;
  • Assessing fund managers or specific investments;
  • Ensuring boards and management teams have oversight and a governance commitment to the upholding of human rights in interactions between companies, suppliers, investors and asset owners; and
  • Incorporating monitoring of fund managers, companies or assets and reporting on cultural heritage into existing monitoring and reporting.

As stewards of capital, investors are best placed to decide where funds are invested and to influence corporate behaviour for their clients or beneficiaries’ best financial interests. Dhawura Ngilan presents an opportunity for the private sector to go beyond legislative standards and actively contribute to First Nations heritage in Australia.

Read the full update on the K&L website here: May 2024 ESG Policy Update—Australia | HUB | K&L Gates (