A South Australian land access initiative gains momentum following a major Co–designing the Future Workshop in late 2017. The aim of this initiative is to bring together the Mineral and Exploration Industry, Native Title Groups and Government to achieve greater certainty, efficiency and effectiveness in land access.
Following a review of the regulatory framework that supports the interaction of native title rights and interests and mineral exploration, the Mineral Resources Division within the South Australian State Government developed a Stronger Partners Stronger Futures (SPSF) program as a means of improving the operation of the native title system for mineral exploration in South Australia.
The program is aimed at encouraging more effective engagement between Native Title Groups, Industry and Government to collaboratively identify and implement improvements to the native title system as it applies to mining and exploration.
This initiative follows a long history of trying to make South Australia a more competitive place to explore for minerals. Early initiatives included a state-wide Native Title Resolution process which sought to develop a range of Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA’s) between Native Title Groups, Government and the Mineral and Exploration Industry. While this initiative did make some progress, and provided for an alternative process through Mineral Exploration ILUA’s, it did not resolve all the issues.
Co-designing the Future Workshop
The current review and consultation process has evolved and developed over a number of years and included a series meetings and workshops with each sector, individual consultation with Native Title Groups and culminated with a major Co-designing the Future Workshop in Port Augusta in October 2017.
The aim of this latest workshop was to:
- Build further trust between government, native title groups and industry
- Strengthen relationships based on understanding, respect and early engagement
- Drive better collaboration between stakeholders, and
- Identify co designed solutions to the operation of the native title system for mineral exploration in South Australia
To assist the review and consultation process DIXON Partnering Solutions was engaged to provide strategic advice and independent facilitation support to various meetings and workshops. In addition, Ian Dixon produced a Stronger Partners Stronger Futures Summary Report in August 2017 outlining the process to date, key issues arising from consultation with Native Title Groups in South Australia and the Challenges an Opportunities in moving forward.
Some Observations & Challenges
While many of the issues raised by Native Title Groups were specific to their context a number of points raised have broad application to any collaborative initiative where parties are aiming to strengthen relationships, such as:
- Relationships need to be built on trust and respect, with greater transparency and equity in decision making
- Engagement needs to be early and direct engagement should include face to face meetings
- Information sharing is critical so that everyone is working from the same base of information, and
- Support may be required by some parties so that all can participate equally in the process
One of the key challenges presented by Ian Dixon in his report was the way that Government currently interacts with other sectors and how it would need to change the way it worked in the future it if was to achieve co designed and co-owned solutions.
Rather than government taking total ownership of the issues and seeking views and comments from other parties it would need to fundamentally change the way that it interacted with the other sectors. All sectors would need to ‘own the problem’ and then collaboratively ‘design the solutions’ together.
As a result of the Co-designing the Future Workshop a number of next steps have been proposed for the Stronger Partners Stronger Future initiative including the formation of a
Stronger Partners Stronger Futures (SPSF) Steering Committee, made up of representatives of Government, Native Title Groups, Explorers and Peak Bodies, which will function as a main reference group to oversee the collaborative process.
In addition, it is intended to bring together representatives of each sector to work on progressing resolution of key issues emanating from the workshop. The State Government has also indicated that it intends to provide support in communication, early engagement and sharing of information wherever possible.
This initiative is still very much work in progress and but it highlights just how much time may be needed to build strong durable relationships between sectors and that some fundamental power shifts may be necessary to design and sustain solutions to very complex and challenging issues.
More detailed information on the Stronger Partners Stronger Futures initiative can be found at http://minerals.statedevelopment.sa.gov.au/land_access/stronger_partners_stronger_futures