Indigenous-led study unveils framework to attain cultural licence to operate

  • As the blue economy continues to grow and new and emerging industries enter the ocean estate, it is crucial to put a spotlight on the pathways for working with First Nations.
  • This research offers pathways for attaining a Cultural Licence to Operate (CLO) by working alongside First Nations respectfully and fairly.
  • The research from the Blue Economy CRC and led by CSIRO developed a preliminary CLO framework.
  • The research outlines 5 key recommendations that are a vital opportunity to change course and move from rhetoric to action for better co-existence and partnership models with First Nations.

An Indigenous-led research report released today, introduces a CLO framework for industries to work with First Nations to earn trust and cultural legitimacy in their operations in the blue economy.

The study, led by Australian’s national science agency, CSIRO, funded by the Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre, provides a new standard for industry practices for the concept of a ‘Cultural Licence to Operate’ in blue economy sectors such as offshore aquaculture and marine renewable energy.

CSIRO Indigenous researcher, Dr Cass Hunter, from the Kuku Yalanji and Maluiligal nation, said there’s a need for industries to attain a Cultural Licence to Operate by respectfully working alongside First Nations.

“We’re flipping the script for industry to consider the competitive advantage of working directly alongside First Nations through changing the formula of corporate responsibility,” Dr Hunter said.

“This framework provides guiding tracks for shifting away from a transactional way to engage with First Nations through ‘keeping up an appearance’ or ‘at arm’s length’ towards the ultimate transformative goal — real beneficial relationships with First Nations.

“We hope the framework helps transition Cultural Licence to Operate to an opportunity rather than it being seen as an unnecessary cost associated with operating in an ethical, equitable and culturally responsible way.”

CSIRO marine ethnoecologist and Quandamooka woman Mibu Fischer said industry needs to build trust and earn its cultural legitimacy to operate.

“A cultural licence is a really complex thing to develop. It can be anything from a community’s rights to veto a project, to community consent for a business to work in their Sea Country,” Ms Fischer said.

“It could be community’s rights to be engaged or profit from onshore facilities. It can be a whole range of things, but the cultural licence aspect of it is about giving that power and decision-making to communities over our future in the blue space.”

The report identifies five key recommendations for industry, including:

  1. Investing in implementing and testing the CLO framework;
  2. Bringing diverse sectors together to address alternative perspectives and points of tension;
  3. Commitment to educate to build a deeper understanding and to uproot existing institutional misconceptions;
  4. Elevate industry standards by mandating leadership performance; and
  5. Investment in more agile and risk-tolerant approaches to encourage industry to actively consider the competitive advantage of working alongside First Nations.

The report calls upon ‘industry leaders to step up their ambition to drive the transformation needed to deliver the co-benefit goals and renewed awareness in our societies that if we make ethical and equitable choices, that respectfully move us forward together, we can make a positive difference for the future of Ocean Sustainable Development’.

The Blue Economy CRC will be hosting a webinar led by Project Lead, Dr Cass Hunter, CSIRO who will walk through the report and outcomes from the project.

To register, or, download the full report and view the Cultural License to Operate short film.

For Blue Economy CRC enquiries contact Vanessa Fairweather, Communications Manager, on 0466 393 324 or [email protected].

Originally published by Blue Economy CRC.

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