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Expanding hearts and minds on the reconciliation journey

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AGL Energy
09 November 2020

At AGL, we acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we operate and continue to foster relationships with our First Nations people.

Our path towards reconciliation includes the development of a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) – which we will launch later this year – but our vision remains to nurture respectful partnerships and create meaningful opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This week is NAIDOC Week (8-15 November) and we’re taking a look at how we’ve been deepening our understanding of Aboriginal history and celebrating in colourful ways.

Protecting Aboriginal history

Earlier this year, artefacts dating back about 3,000 years were uncovered near the AGL Loy Yang mine. The items – including cutting tools, grinding stones, and axe heads – were reburied as part of a major repatriation effort.

Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) Cultural Heritage Officer Nicky Moffat provided awareness training to our people.

‘Our oral history has been passed down for generations, but there really isn’t a lot that has been documented,’ Nicky said. ‘This is my heritage, and once it’s destroyed, we’ve got nothing.

‘Please be careful. Please be conscious and vigilant.’

AGL Loy Yang Head of Mining Jeff Hobson said we take the discovery of Indigenous artefacts very seriously.

‘We ensure the correct processes to return each item to a safe location, under the guidance of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council (VAHC), the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation,’ Jeff said.


Opening educational pathways

Also at Loy Yang, a scholarship, in partnership with Federation University, is supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tertiary students with the cost of education. This year the scholarship was awarded to local teacher Justin Stankovic.

‘Not only is the financial support provided by the AGL Loy Yang Jungarra Wannik Scholarship incredibly helpful in alleviating the many obstacles a university student faces, but also the boost to self-esteem and makes you feel that other people care about and believe in you,’ Justin said.


Teacher Justin Stankovic, winner of the Jungarra Wannik scholarship

Later this year, we will introduce an Indigenous School Based Traineeship Program in South Australia as a pilot to be rolled out nationally.

Art as a tool for learning

At Torrens Island Power Station we have put aside competitive rivalries with Origin Energy as we work together to learn about Aboriginal history.

Our people from Torrens, Eastwood, and visitors from Origin recently attended a workshop where art and role playing connected with hearts and minds. The workshops built a strong foundational awareness of life from the Aboriginal perspective.

Gavin Reid is Origin’s General Manager of Finance.

‘We found the session so informative and a great way to challenge us and learn,’ he said.

‘While we may be commercial competitors, it’s fantastic that we can work together on reconciliation,’ he said.

Revitalising a special place

The work continues in the Adelaide area, where we have partnered with the Department for Environment and Water to establish a native revegetation team which employs six Kaurna people for important works across metropolitan area.


Revegetation work at the Aldinga Washpools

The team is revegetating the Aldinga Washpools site, one of last remaining coastal freshwater and estuarine lagoon systems along the Adelaide metropolitan coastline. It provides important environmental open space for the local community and habitat for waterbirds.

Catherine Mooney is our Head of Public Advocacy.

‘The Kaurna people’s cultural knowledge of the area is invaluable in being able to revitalise the land that we all enjoy,’ she said.

Colourful celebrations of culture

This month at AGL Torrens Island Power Station we unveiled a piece of artwork by renowned Kaurna Aboriginal artist Allan Sumner. The piece called ‘Yartapuulti’ tells the story of Kaurna connection to Country on Torrens Island and the surrounding waterways.


Allan Sumner mural being unveiled at AGL Torrens

‘Kaurna people once flourished on Torrens Island, utilising the native animals, birds and marine life to sustain them,’ Allan said.

‘Each year, our people would hold an annual emu hunt and only take what was needed. We fished in the waterways and set up camps across the Island.’

At AGL Bayswater and Liddell, the artwork of local Indigenous artist Johnny Robinson strikes an impressive feature on the walls of Bayswater’s transformer blast wall and on the conference room doors.

Johnny was commissioned to paint 20 murals. The works took more than three months to compete and feature native animals.

‘Painting these murals is the biggest project I have ever done in my life,’ Johnny said.

‘The wedge-tailed eagle is a totem for the people of this area, kangaroos are plentiful in this area, the goanna is my personal totem and I love catching and eating freshwater mullet, they are my favourite bush tucker.

Lindsay Frazer is the chair of the AGL Bayswater and Liddell Cultural Diversity Committee; she said the additional art on the conference room doors reflects the mix of cultures at AGL.

‘The idea of painting these doors as a sign of our respect and inclusiveness of all cultures is a key part of one of our core values – Better Together,’ she said.

And at AGL Loy Yang, we lit up the cooling tower with the artwork of elder Aunty Eileen Harrison in a spectacular show of support for the local Gunai/Kurnai people.

Making our workplace safe

One of the aims of the Reconciliation Action Plan is to make the workplace safe for Indigenous people.

At AGL Baywater and Liddell there are three apprentices who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, including electrical apprentice Kelsey French from Liddell Power Station.

Kelsey, a proud Kamilaroi woman, said ‘If feels good to see a group of dedicated people working hard to create that awareness for my culture.’

Did you know?
  • Loy Yang is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘big eel’. The power station and mine are located just south of Traralgon, which comes from the Aboriginal words ‘tarra” meaning river and ‘algon’ meaning little fish.
  • The Jungarra Wannik scholarship name was given by Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) and means ‘to find your footprint’. It represents finding your footprint in education and remaining strong in your culture to achieve your goals.
  • Yartapuulti is the Kaurna name for Torrens Island, meaning the land of sleep.
  • Our Bogong Power Station also has an indigenous connection, named after Victoria's largest mountain, Mount Bogong – which is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘big fella’.
  • In a smoking ceremony native plants are burnt to produce smoke to ward off bad spirits, acknowledge ancestors, and pay respect to the land and sea of country. The smoke is believed to have healing and cleansing properties.
  • A totem is a companion and protector to a person or group. For example, the wedge-tail eagle is the totem of the Wanaruah people of the Upper Hunter Valley.