Three employees

Creating Opportunities

We are taking important steps to grow our Indigenous leadership, helping us better understand and work with host communities in the future. By having strong Indigenous leaders in place, we can ensure Indigenous voices are heard on cultural heritage matters and broader issues – right across our business.

In Australia, we have committed $50 million over five years to attract, retain and grow Indigenous leaders, and we have increased the number of Australian Indigenous leaders in our business fivefold since November 2020. We have also identified further candidates for future opportunities through a targeted Indigenous talent management and selection programme.

Supporting students to achieve their potential

For more than a decade we have partnered with Indspire, an Indigenous national charity that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. Indspire provides financial awards, delivers programmes and shares resources so that Indigenous students achieve their highest potential.

In 2021, we renewed our partnership with the Breakfast Club of Canada with C$750,000 over three years to provide nutritious meals to over 4,000 students in 18 Indigenous schools in British Columbia and Quebec.

We also established an institutional research structure dedicated to the indigenisation of higher education through a C$1.5 million partnership with Universite du Quebec a Chicoutimi. The structure will be established in collaboration with several Indigenous communities and will focus, among other things, on training the next generation of Indigenous scientists.

Adam Lees, Chief Adviser Indigenous Affairs, talks about the importance of growing Indigenous leadership in our business.

In Australia


Indigenous employees in leadership development programme


Indigenous employees earned promotions


Indigenous employees participating in mentoring programme



2021 figures

  • Indigenous development programmes - Australia
  • Graduate and vacation student programmes

Indigenous development programmes – Australia

Indigenous Leadership Development Programme

This programme supports our Indigenous employees to accelerate the transition to higher roles within our business and bridge any development gaps.

It is available for people either leading teams or pursuing a more technical discipline and is tailored to suit each person’s specific career aspirations. The programme can include access to one of our university partnerships to fast-track tailored learning to help employees secure qualifications for their next role, or placement in another role or operation to develop core business and leadership skills.

Two-way mentoring programme

One of the key findings of the recent Board review into cultural heritage management highlighted our need to transform our work culture to better reflect our values.

Our two-way mentoring programme presents an important opportunity for our senior leaders in Australia to offer career advice to our Indigenous talent, while gaining a better understanding of some of the challenges faced by our Indigenous employees. The programme is helping build a culture of understanding across our organisation and foster connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees.

Networking programme

We also launched our Australia-wide Indigenous employee networking programme in 2021, supporting positive relationship building opportunities and a sense of belonging.

Our mentoring programme

In 2021, 76 Indigenous employees paired with senior leaders participated in our two-way mentoring programme across our Australia-based business to deepen cross-cultural understanding and responsiveness.

Graduate and vacation student programmes

We have just finalised recruitment for the 2021/2022 Graduate and Vacation Student Programme. This was our first Indigenous recruitment campaign to attract Indigenous talent to Rio Tinto across Australia. It is part of our strategy to accelerate opportunities for Indigenous professionals, providing them mentoring and opportunities for career growth. Graduates and vacation students will be placed at a variety of locations across our Australian operations and hubs, including the Pilbara, Perth, Brisbane, Yarwun and Weipa.