The importance of our Social Surroundings Consultations here at TR.

Since 2020, a higher focus has been placed on assessing the impact of proposed developments on the surrounding cultural and environmental landscapes. To make these assessments TR conducts on-country social surrounds consultations with Traditional Owners which, in turn, forms part of the approvals process under the EPA (Environmental Protection Act) in Western Australia. 

Social Surroundings are inclusive of the cultural, aesthetic, social and economic values of an environment. For Traditional Owner groups across WA, this may additionally include the protection and maintenance of culturally significant sites along with their associated cultural protocols. Additionally, it could also include the preservation of culturally significant flora and fauna, water sources and rivers as well as maintaining access to country and cultural knowledge transmission. 

However, due to activities such as mining, capturing these values is often extremely complicated and can be intrinsically linked to traumatic feelings for local Traditional Owners. 

Throughout 2021, Terra Rosa has engaged with Traditional Owner groups and facilitate Social Surroundings’ consultations. In turn, this has allowed us to also work with mining companies and foster a clear understanding of Traditional Owners’ environmental values (beyond just heritage sites alone) and how they can be protected and managed throughout the life of the mine site and following its closure. 

With TR’s team of anthropologists, archaeologists and environmental scientists along with over 10 years’ experience working directly for Traditional Owner groups across WA, TR are in the privileged and unique position to facilitate these conversations. 

During these consultations, TR aims to identify values throughout the surrounding project areas, understanding if and how these values could be impacted and then implement measures to avoid, minimise or offset the identified impacts. Importantly, this process is ongoing and guided by Traditional Owners. Impacts are identified through risk assessment and mitigation measures during consultations and are looked at through the lens of aesthetic, cultural, economic and social values of the respective Traditional Owner group. 

We focus on working in partnership with Traditional Owners to ensure surrounding physical and biological environments, culturally significant sites, cultural knowledge transmission and heritage places are all protected from significant harm, and trauma of loss of Country is acknowledged. The risk assessment framework we utilise aims to identify potential risks to culturally significant places and include management plans to prevent or offset any impacts.

Throughout the consultation process, technical information including overall project plans, flora and fauna studies, water management, waste management, infrastructure development, and mine closure planning is presented to the Traditional Owners and the TR consultants by project advocates so everyone is fully informed of risks to be considered. 

Our consultation methodology includes workshops between the Traditional Owners, TR consultants and project proponents. These sessions are then followed by on Country field explorations and focus on targeting key areas of interest to the respective Traditional Owners. 

This whole process focuses on the social and cultural values of the project area, the potential risks associated with the proposed development and is inclusive of management and mitigation discussions. Social Surrounding consultations are a key way of acknowledging how Traditional Owners continue to care for and pass on knowledge of Country as well as utilise natural resources. We’re proud to facilitate this important work. 

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