Sodexo Australia represents at Indigenous conference in Canada

Sodexo Australia represents at Indigenous conference in Canada

Caption: From left to right: three members of the Fox Lake Cree Nation; Kim Sanderson (Alaska); Joanne Neddo (Canada), Chief Walter Spence, Fox Lake Cree Nation; Carolina Rouillon (Peru) and Adrian Burkenhagen (Australia).

 In June Adrian Burkenhagen, Head of Indigenous Affairs for Mining Australia, represented Australia at Sodexo’s Indigenous People, First Nations and Aboriginals Conference in Toronto, Canada.  

Delegates from five countries came together to share insights and best practices about what we can do to as an employer, service provider and corporate citizen to improve quality of life for Indigenous people and communities wherever Sodexo operates.  

There are over 1.4 million Indigenous people in Canada, comprising First Nations, Inuit and Métis groups. Around 4.3 per cent of the country’s population is Indigenous—slightly more than the 2.8 per cent of Australians who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in the 2016 Census.

As in Canada, Sodexo’s commitment to Indigenous progress in Australia is directly tied to our goal of becoming an employer of choice, as well as a partner of choice for clients—especially those in Energy and Resources operating in areas with deep, ongoing ties to the nation’s Aboriginal heritage.

The conference was an opportunity to share lessons and ideas to ensure we deliver on our local commitments and vision for reconciliation in Australia. One of the fundamental insights from the conference, Adrian says, came from Sodexo Canada’s 2017 Indigenous Business Survey. The results show overwhelming public support for businesses to help close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

“Over four in five Canadians agree that corporations should include Indigenous owned and operated businesses in their supplier networks. Around seven in 10 believe companies operating on or near traditional lands should obtain services from Indigenous businesses. We expect that a similar level of support for these strategies would exist in Australia. It was a clear-cut endorsement of our Indigenous engagement approach—proof that we are on the right track, but also a reminder of our responsibility to do more.”

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Research from the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at ANU has found that Indigenous businesses in Australia are about 100 times more likely to employ Indigenous workers than others. Through its choices and policies, Sodexo can improve quality of life for individuals and communities by fuelling the growth of Indigenous businesses. The conference included workshops on incubation and mentoring for micro-enterprises, and procurement policies to increase access to our supply chain.

“There was great interest in the work we’re doing in Australia, working independently, with Governments and with clients to open up our supply chain to Indigenous businesses. I was also proud to report that Australia well exceeded the targets set in our first Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan on Indigenous supplier relationships and expenditure. The conference also sparked a number of ideas that I hope to introduce in our next RAP for 2018-2020.” 

The conference culminated in a trip to the Limestone hydroelectric dam in northern Manitoba (and thankfully for Adrian it was the northern summer!). Site of the Fox Lake Cree Nation, one of Canada’s634 recognised First Nations, the generating station is a success story of co-operation between business and Indigenous land-owners.

“It was a great experience visiting the Northern camps in Manitoba. My thanks to Joanne Neddo for co-ordinating the invaluable tour.” – Adrian Burkenhagen