Publications

Hindsight for foresight: Lessons about agreement governance from implementing the Gulf Communities Agreement (GCA)

Published by: Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining

Agreements form the basis of an ongoing relationship between mining companies and native title parties around a range of issues. The management of agreements through structures and processes established for implementation is referred to as agreement governance. This report identifies features of the governance arrangements established by the Gulf Communities Agreement (GCA). It draws lessons about how these have influenced the achievement of mutually desired outcomes and impacted on long-term sustainability of relationships.

The GCA of 1997 establishes land use and benefit sharing arrangements in the lower Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland, Australia between Century Zinc Mine, the Queensland Government and three native title groups (Waanyi, Mingginda and Gkuthaarn-Kukatj – the latter considering themselves one People with shared responsibility for looking after their land and saltwater Country although having two sets of clan ancestors). This involvement of multiple native title groups is one distinctive feature of the GCA. As well, it was the first agreement negotiated with native title claimants in advance of a determination of the relevant native title claims; and it included the Queensland Government as a party, and had a regional and community scope of benefits.

The signatories to the GCA exhibited considerable goodwill and high hopes that the agreement would ensure mining benefitted the whole lower Gulf region, facilitate opportunities for economic participation and self-determination for the native title groups (NTGs) and local Aboriginal communities, and leverage government initiatives to advance the socio-economic status of the region.

Through successive owners, the GCA facilitated mining for 16 years and annual compensation payments to NTGs for 20 years. Other opportunities realised through the GCA and its governance arrangements include significant outcomes in the areas of employment and training, expansion of the Indigenous land estate in the region and operation of a number of viable Indigenous businesses including a multi-million dollar pastoral enterprise. However, the wisdom of hindsight is often informed by examining challenges confronted as much as by celebrating achievements.

CITATION

Everingham, J. & Keenan, J. (2017) Hindsight for Foresight: lessons about Agreement Governance from Implementing the Gulf Communities Agreement, CSRM: Brisbane.