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Rio Tinto and the Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation have collaborated to design a new program with the aim of protecting and preserving Yinhawangka culture.

The ‘Living Cultures Program’ will deliver projects to record, preserve and transfer cultural knowledge. This will include language, living history and heritage, women’s business, arts and culture, song lines and traditional stories.

The program will also aim to increase local economic development opportunities, improve social and emotional wellbeing for the Yinhawangka community, enhance cultural land management by Yinhawangka and develop and deliver cultural awareness training.

“Firstly, let me acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the Yinhawangka People and Rio Tinto in bringing to life in this ‘Living Cultures Project’,” Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation chair Lorraine Injie said.

“The preservation, maintenance and protection of our lived history, cultural knowledge of Country and providing programs and activities will support and assist us towards a better future.

“This project brings an opportunity for changing the way in which Aboriginal programs are conceptualised, planned, and implemented. The ‘Living Cultures Project’ aims to take back Yinhawangka People’s control of our knowledge and travel further on our journey as Traditional Owners of our land and in improving social and economic outcomes for our people.”

Under the partnership, Rio Tinto will provide $9.5 million to the program over a six-year period.

“‘The Living Cultures Program’ is the result of strong collaboration between the Yinhawangka People and Rio Tinto,” Rio Tinto vice president of health, safety, environment and communities Cecile Thaxter said.

“Together we are dedicated to preserving and enhancing the culture, people, and Country of the Yinhawangka People through programs that promote positive, intergenerational outcomes.

“We are in a world where ancient and precious cultural heritage is at risk of being lost forever but through this program, we have a unique opportunity to work together to protect and preserve the Yinhawangka People’s culture.”

‘The Living Cultures Program’ builds off the Social, Cultural Heritage Management Plan Rio Tinto and the Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation co-designed in 2022 as part of the proposed development of the Western Range iron ore project.

The Western Range project commenced construction in 2023, with first production anticipated in 2025.