First Nations people in Gladstone have joined forces with global green energy company Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) to work towards renewable energy projects in the North Queensland region.
FFI recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the First Nations Bailai, Gurang, Gooreng Gooreng, Taribelang Bunda Peoples Prescribed Body Corporates (PBC).
FFI Australia East Director, Felicity Underhill, who is a Ngati Raukawa woman from north of Wellington in New Zealand, says the industry has a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to get the relationship with Traditional Owners right from the beginning.
“FFI is promoting decarbonisation for Australia and the rest of the world through growth of renewable electricity at scale, but there are times where electricity is not enough and you need fuel for shipping and trucks and so on, and we see green hydrogen working side by side along with renewable electricity,” she says.
“Queensland is beautifully set up, great sun, ports, infrastructure and workforce, and industry that could really do with de-carbonisation.
“At the beginning of this energy transition, we are going to be relying on these fantastic resources, and it is important that we include those people who have taken care of those resources for tens of thousands of years.”
PBC chairman Matthew Cooke says the MoU is an important initial step in building engagement and collaboration between the two organisations.
“This is a monumental shift in the relationship between major industry and Traditional Owners,” Cooke says.
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Underhill says FFI is acutely aware that this kind of investment and energy transition is “not something that comes along every day”.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get it right, to build those voices into the way we develop these opportunities, and maximise shared wealth creation,” she says.
“What we have done in Gladstone is worked with the PBC. This is a group of First Nations people who have had a number of interactions with industry over the years and we think we can do a hell of a lot better this time around.
“With FMG’s history of employing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on our mine sites, the Billion Opportunities program we have spent $4 billion in contracts with 140 Aboriginal businesses over the past 10 years, and with that experience we believe that is going to help us work closely with Aboriginal groups on this side of the country as well.”
FFI recognised its existing Green Energy Manufacturing Centre and other potential green energy projects in Gladstone are on the traditional country of the First Nations Bailai, Gurang, Gooreng Gooreng, Taribelang Bunda Peoples.
Ms Underhill says FFI engaged with the PBC from the beginning to co-create opportunities for co-investment. “FFI is a global operation, where we are working with multiple groups of First Nations people around the world, and that gives us the opportunity to learn from different experiences and groups for best practice and lessons learned.”
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