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L-R Jacob Heard, (Mt Arthur Coal Technical Services), Theresa Trickey, (Mt Arthur Coal Technical Services), Sarah Bailey (Manager Approvals, Land, Access & Heritage for NSW Energy Coal) Damien Williams (Mt Arthur Coal Technical Services)

With guidance from the Wonnarua community, Mt Arthur Coal has created a Yarning Circle at the entrance to their main building as an acknowledgment to all Traditional Custodians of the land. The Yarning Circle will provide a place to reflect and allow the conversations to continue around culture, connection, inclusion and diversity within their workplace and the community.

The Yarning Circle was the perfect spot to sit down for a conversation with the team responsible for its creation. With the culturally significant Mount Arthur summit overlooking in the background and surrounded by native trees and plants, it was easy to see why this space encourages conversation and reflection.

I was joined by Sarah Bailey, Manager Approvals, Land, Access & Heritage for NSW Energy Coal, and Damien Williams, Theresa Trickey and Jacob Heard from Mt Arthur Coal’s Technical Services. Damien, Theresa and Jacob were tasked with organising events for National Reconciliation Week and Sarah shared how they went above and beyond.

“There were so many great ideas put forth and when asked which one they wanted to do the response was all of them!” said Sarah with a smile. “Fortunately, we were supported wholeheartedly by the company in making them all happen. It was amazing how everyone dropped everything and put their hands up to be involved. I have to commend Damien and his team for their passion and how they led this.”

During the week, the team organised toolbox talks and presentations, Indigenous art workshops, a workforce breakfast and even a colouring competition. Underlying the week’s events was the mission to increase the workforce’s understanding of the history of Indigenous people. Which is something the Yarning Circle will do, not just for one week of each year, but for every single day.

“The Yarning Circle, which was Theresa’s idea, is really a wonderful visual statement that encourages communication and engagement – with everyone being equals,” said Sarah.

“It provides a way to come to together to collaborate and communicate in a trusting, safe and respectful way where, most notably, participants sit in a circle formation so everyone can face each other. One of the wonderful benefits of a Yarning Circle is the symbolism that everyone’s contribution is equally important, and it promotes active listening, sharing, trust, and is a harmonious, inclusive and respectful way to communicate.”

To bring the project to fruition and ensure meaningful collaboration, they engaged with seven different local indigenous businesses. The project is not quite finished, as they have a sign still to go up which is being manufactured by an Indigenous company and are also arranging for each of the Wonnarua Totems to be etched into the back of the sandstone blocks, at the request of an Elder. However, the Yarning Circle is already a favourite spot for the workforce to come together.

“We hope not only will this be a place that the workforce can enjoy and connect with, but that it will provide many opportunities in the future to strengthen our knowledge and connection of the Wonnarua people and their heritage,” said Sarah.

Mt Arthur Coal acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land, the Wonnarua people. We pay our respect to all Elders past, present and emerging, and we recognise their continuing connection to the land, water and culture. We wish to express our gratitude and a deep appreciation to the generations of Wonnarua people who have been involved in the ongoing management of Aboriginal cultural heritage at Mt Arthur Coal. The cultural knowledge shared by the Wonnarua people over many decades, has assisted in ensuring that Aboriginal cultural heritage values are appropriately incorporated in the day to day management of the mine.

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