International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Sharing knowledge and collaborating with local communities in Australia

posted: 09/08/2022

For International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we connected with Rebecca Gentle, the Senior Community Engagement Advisor at McArthur River Mine (MRM) in Australia. The observance day this year focusses on the role of indigenous women in the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge, which Rebecca understands deeply. Not only did she form close connections with the local Borroloola people, but she also helped compile and publish a traditional medicinal book inspired by a passionate female elder. Rebecca’s collaboration with local communities embodies the openness and responsibility we aim for throughout our global business. Read on to learn more about her story. 

“I grew up in the small country town of Forbes, New South Wales (NSW), as an only child but in a large extended family where we all supported each other. 

Family are the most important people in my life and, you know, I haven’t changed that much since I was a kid. Fishing, camping, the outdoors – that’s always been the thing with me. 

I used to enjoy exploring the NSW coast in my spare time but now it’s anywhere in the Northern Territory. There are lots of beautiful places here, but I’d have to say anywhere on the water would be my favourite. I’m really enjoying the work-life balance of exploring the territory from my base in Howard Springs, Darwin, and my career at McArthur River Mine. 

Growing up, my dad worked in mining, so I understood what it all meant but it wasn’t a thing I really aspired to. I actually started out in Human Resources for 12 months and fell into this role of community engagement. I started in February 2013 and nine years later I’m still here! 

My role is managing a programme to consult and work closely with the local community of Borroloola (some 60 kilometres downstream from the mine), which benefits everybody. I work both at site and in town, which provides a good balance and the flexibility to work more closely with the community, which has a large Indigenous population. 

I was surprised by how complex the Indigenous culture is. There are four different Indigenous language groups in Borroloola, across four town camps. Everyone has their view of what they think the culture is like, but there is such complexity in how it all fits. 

I’ve been lucky in that I have made amazing connections with the people of Borroloola. Their knowledge, their culture and their language – everything about them is amazing. When I’m away from MRM or Borroloola I feel like I need to come home and get grounded in the community again. I find that really interesting about myself. 

Rebecca Gentle - Senior Community Engagement Advisor at McArthur River Mine (MRM)

We are trying to bring that connection onto the mine site as well. We have Indigenous culture nights where we invite senior Indigenous women to the site and they show us how to make bush medicines and cook bush tucker. These connections are increasing the number of trainees in our Indigenous employment programme dramatically. 

There are so many more local Borroloola people who work on the mine site now, which just shares that knowledge again. 

What I’m most proud of are the achievements I’ve made as part of a team – including the launch of the bush tucker book. MRM worked with the Borroloola community to compile and publish this book about bush medicines and food. It followed from a close relationship I had with one Elder in particular. She had a real passion for sharing her culture and language and keeping them alive. She always wanted to publish a book, but sadly she passed away before she could. 

It took a long time to gather all the information for the book, but the highlight for me was getting that knowledge from Elders; consulting with four different language groups to bring together information on the region’s bush tucker. I’m very proud of myself for achieving that. 

And it follows the advice I would give to anyone looking to work in the mining industry – be open to any opportunity presented to you, and always back yourself.”


tags: Global Community Indigenous people Australia