Tool 1 – Applying Principles of Good Engagement

There are a number of key principles of good engagement that companies should seek to apply when engaging with Indigenous Peoples.

Step Guide


Listen to indigenous communities

A willingness to learn and listen helps build trust, confidence and a genuine commitment to working as partners, rather than beneficiaries. Companies should:

  • Take extra time in meetings, listen to stories and conduct in informal discussions
  • Listen respectfully, don’t rush conversations and appear patronising
  • Allow discussions to naturally occur, do not rush to the point of business and neglect cultural protocols


Allow adequate time for discussions

All projects have time constraints; countering in space for indigenous groups to fully consider propositions, without feeling coerced or pressured is essential. Companies should:

  • Notify indigenous groups about time constraints without rushing processes, as this could be counter-intuitive
  • Negotiate an agreement with community representatives regarding key dates and deadlines
  • Be aware that respect and mutual understanding is unlikely to emerge from solely discussing the interests of the company
  • Remember that many Indigenous Peoples view time as cyclical and not linear – events can happen over and over again – therefore time is not a force that passes by inevitably


Understand and respect Indigenous Peoples and their customs

To demonstrate respect, companies should:

  • Learn a “courtesy level” of local language
  • Accept invitations to join local celebrations or family meals
  • Reciprocate hospitality
  • Make sure appropriate peoples from both the company and community meet at critical meetings etc


Ensure clear and frequent communication

Company information should be presented clearly and openly, so all people fully understand. For example, companies may:

  • Provide information orally and visually eg conversation, slides, animations, DVDs, models etc
  • Provide Indigenous Peoples the opportunity to visit other mining operations
  • Place emphasis on information which actually affects the community eg impacts or benefits instead of technical aspects
  • Offer valid feedback from community questions, to help plan follow-up sessions


Use local language

When many of the community are not proficient in the national language, the company should use the local language. Companies should consider:

  • Using plain language when communicating technical concepts
  • Re-emphasising important concepts to reduce misinterpretations and other translational problems