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BHP Billiton has announced a new, five-year partnership with Indigenous organisation Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ) and the Martu people of the Western Desert region in Western Australia. The partnership, called ‘Martulu Palyalu: Strong Country, Strong Culture’, forms the latest chapter of a 10-year relationship between BHP Billiton and KJ that is delivering positive cultural, social and environmental outcomes for Martu people through an Indigenous Ranger program.

Announcing the renewal of the partnership in Perth, BHP Billiton Asset President Western Australia Iron Ore, Edgar Basto, said the Company’s A$14.7 million contribution over the next five years will deliver culturally meaningful work for over 290 Martu Rangers, with 40 per cent of those being women.

“We are extremely proud that this partnership is making a real difference to the lives of the Martu people” Mr Basto said.

“This innovative partnership has delivered $3 in social, cultural and economic benefits for every $1 invested, and that is before you take into account the environmental benefits. What started as a small grass roots partnership a decade ago has evolved into a nationally significant cultural and conservation program. Together KJ and the Martu people have delivered on-country social, cultural and land conservation programs across the Western Desert area of WA.”

Rangers work from four desert communities. They reduce the number of feral animals and manage threatened species populations such as the bilby and black-flanked rock wallaby. Rangers combine traditional ecological knowledge with contemporary natural resource management techniques, and promote species diversity. Elders and young people return to country to record stories which form a distinctive part of Australia’s history.

The Martu lands have high biodiversity value and are recognised globally for their intactness. They are home to many of Australia’s most threatened species and hold immense cultural significance for the Martu people.

Partners include BHP Billiton, KJ, the Australian Government Ranger program and World Vision Australia.

KJ Director Peter Johnson said BHP Billiton’s long term support has been critical to Martu transforming the lives of their communities and building pathways to a strong future on their country.

“BHP Billiton has supported an innovative model of social and environmental investment – focused, long-term and strategic,” Mr Johnson said.

“Importantly, it has recognised that helping Martu to access and look after their country is the key to landscape-scale, long-term environmental outcomes. This supports Martu cultural aspirations and delivers benefits to the whole Australian community. The vision, thoughtfulness and generosity of BHP Billiton managers have been remarkable throughout the 10 year relationship.  KJ could not hope for a better partner.”

Fact file

Martulu Palyalu: Strong Country. Strong Culture is a partnership between Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa and BHP Billiton

A social return on investment evaluation of the partnership from FY2009 to FY2014 found that for every $1 invested, $3 is returned in social, cultural and economic benefits. Specific benefits included:

  • Employment: 262 Martu rangers (37 permanent Martu rangers and 225 casual rangers) – this is the single largest impact of a social investment program across BHP Billiton globally in providing real jobs for Indigenous people; (Note* that number has since grown to more than 290 Rangers)
  • Diversionary impact: 41 person years of incarceration saved through the on-country programs and KJ’s social support of people going through court processes;
  • Crime reduction: a reduced number of contact points between individuals and the Justice system in relation to alcohol-related crime in Newman;
  • Conservation outcomes: threatened species programs, feral animal control (restoring traditional burning practices and water hole management;
  • Preservation of cultural values: connection to Martu country and consequent preservation of cultural knowledge. 
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