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PKKP Aboriginal Corporation reach agreement on Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation with Rio Tinto

Giovanni Torre -

The PKKP Aboriginal Corporation has reached an historic agreement with Rio Tinto on a legacy foundation in the wake of the destruction at Juukan Gorge.

PKKPAC chairperson Burchell Hayes said that despite the continuing pain and loss suffered, there had been "a conscious decision to work with Rio Tinto on creating something enduringly positive that could come out of the tragedy".

PKKPAC is the registered Native Title body corporate of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama people and the Pinikura people.

The Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation has been designed to "deliver benefits to ongoing generations of Puutu Kunti Kurrama people, the Traditional Owners of the land that covers Juukan Gorge".

Mr Hayes said the Foundation would focus on outcomes including social and economic programs such as education and training opportunities; financial independence through businesses development; building capability and capacity; preservation and an increased voice over PKK heritage, culture and land; and advocacy to help challenge the barriers faced by Traditional Owners.

"The great sense of sorrow and loss will always be with us but through these initiatives Rio Tinto can further demonstrate a true and meaningful commitment to the PKK people and rebuild a relationship based on valuing our culture, country and our people."

Mr Hayes said the PKKP had chosen not to provide any financial details of the range of initiatives and urged people not to use the term compensation when referring to the project.

"Nothing can compensate for or replace the loss suffered at Juukan Gorge, so this is an outcome orientated legacy to ensure something positive will come from it for years to come," Mr Hayes said.

The PKKP Aboriginal Corporation said in a statement on Monday that it is also well advanced on a co-management of mining agreement with Rio Tinto.

The announcement of the Foundation agreement comes days after the federal government announced a series of reforms would be established in response to the destruction of Juukan Gorge in May 2020.

Rio Tinto destroyed the Gorge with the permission of the Western Australian state government under the notoriously lopsided and racist Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972, which has since been replaced with the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021, coming into effect next year.

An archaeology report stated the sacred rock shelter was of the highest archaeological significance in Australia, containing a cultural sequence spanning more than 40,000 years, with a high frequency of flaked stone artefacts, rare abundance of faunal remains, unique stone tools, preserved human hair and with sediment containing a pollen record charting thousands of years of environmental changes.

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