10 Deserts Project Launch: Geoff Healy, Chief External Affairs Officer, BHP speech

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Old Parliament House, Canberra, 28 March 2018


The BHP Billiton Foundation and the Ten Deserts Project ‘Connection’

Thank you, [Anthony], for that introduction. I too pay my respects to the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal people, and to their Elders, past, present and future.

I extend this respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are here today. Thank you for travelling across the country to be here. I would also like to welcome all of the Ministers, Senators and other members present.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to be here today, for the launch of a truly remarkable project.

The BHP perspective

Last August, I had the privilege of spending 3 days on country with the Martu people, some of whom are here today. This opportunity was available to me because of BHP’s decade long partnership with the Martu people of the Western Desert of WA, and with Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ).

At a personal level, the few days I spent on country with 30 Martu Rangers had a profound impact on me. It opened my eyes to the extraordinary connection of the Martu to their land. Land that, as many of you know, is so rich in colour and beauty as to be breathtaking. I saw first-hand this connection through the customs and rituals of the Martu: from the deep cultural significance of waterholes, to the communal meaning of fire, to the resourceful use of the land to sustain life. I observed the way the land is fundamental to how the Martu see themselves, and how they relate to each other. And I saw how the Martu Rangers have delivered for their community, in addition to environmental outcomes, life changing social outcomes.

At BHP, the opportunity to play a small part in ensuring this connection is not lost to the generations to come – but is indeed nurtured and enhanced – lies at the heart of our long-term commitment to the Martu KJ partnership.

Our partnership supporting the Martu Rangers has been successful for two very simple reasons: because it has been led by indigenous people and because it has been underpinned by mutual trust. Whilst being implemented at a far larger scale, the Ten Deserts Project has these same underpinnings.

The BHP Billiton Foundation and the Ten Deserts Project

It is through BHP’s partnership with Martu, and in its broader engagement with indigenous organisations, that the BHP Foundation drew inspiration for the Ten Deserts Project. The BHP Foundation aims to make a distinctive contribution to the sustainable development challenges facing our world. Part of the way the Foundation tackles these challenges is by investing in innovative and unique projects that have the potential to change the world we live in.

The Ten Deserts Project is undoubtedly such an investment – an investment in Australia and the world’s future. This Project will operate across 5 States and Territories covering 2.7m square kilometres of desert country, or 35% of Australia’s landmass.

It will, at scale, resource and empower traditional owners of the land to keep Australia’s outback healthy for the benefit of future generations. It will create, drawing on the example of Martu, the largest Indigenous-led connected conservation network on Earth. We are honoured that the BHP Billiton Foundation has been able to play a role in supporting this extraordinaryachievement.

This is a momentous occasion. It is an honour to be here, sharing, with you, the Ten Deserts launch. We all look forward to seeing this inspiring Project fulfil its potential.

And with that, I’d like to introduce Karen Wood, Chairman of the BHP Billiton Foundation.

Thank you.


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