Highly respected Pilbara Indigenous leader Barry Taylor has weighed in on the Rio Tinto fallout after Juukan Gorge, saying the embattled mining giant has not made any internal changes in more than two decades.

Former Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and previously Executive Chair of contracting company Ngarda Civil & Mining, Mr Taylor was at the forefront of dealing with Rio Tinto during his tenure in these positions in both social and economic spaces.

“I have not seen the company change its policies, thinking, values, attitudes and practices over the past 21 years,” Mr Taylor told NIT.

Dealing with Rio Tinto across 15 years, Mr Taylor said the miner has deteriorated from one of the world’s leading companies, supporting Indigenous communities with programs and economic opportunities, to “possibly one of the worst in the world”.

“Rio’s continual rhetoric and arm’s length attitude towards Indigenous affairs is industrial discrimination at best.”

“Despite report after report dating back to 2002 on Indigenous engagement and inclusion by Rio, the company appears to lack coordination across its business when it comes to managing Indigenous affairs — be it heritage, land access or Indigenous business engagement,” Mr Taylor said.

“Those reports continually highlight Rio’s lack of local engagement. At the senior management level and amongst the middle management personnel in Rio Tinto there are people with strong desires and a shared purpose to improve engagement with the tide of wealth creation to raise all boats, however, this approach is not systemic.

“Whilst I appreciate Rio is a very large business that operates in Australia, Rio’s Indigenous community division remain corporate fringe dwellers.”

Mr Taylor believes the company needs to put policies in place that will counteract the growing disparities between Rio Tinto and the Pilbara’s Indigenous people.

“Pilbara Aboriginal people need to be empowered to be front and centre to the solution.”

NIT understands there is still simmering anger and dissatisfaction from Pilbara Traditional Owners towards Rio Tinto almost a year after the destruction of Juukan Gorge.

By Hannah Cross