A Billion Opportunities

Since its foundation in 2003, Fortescue’s survival depended on its ability to innovate.

We extended this attitude to our local communities, asking them the question: “what will it take, not to be a salve or window dressing fix like welfare, but to completely remove the disparity forever within your communities?” The loud and consistent answer that came back was: “we need training, we need jobs, and we need business opportunities. We want to stop cash handouts that weaken our family members. We want to be independent”.

To answer this challenge, we took an equally bold and courageous approach to supporting our communities, as we do to mining our ore, to the huge scale of our rail networks and the efficiencies of our ports. With encouragement from the communities, we set out to do our bit to end the disparity in our region and to assist the Elders of our communities to change the attitudes of their youth and their people. To give the Elders not only the argument but also the logic, to permanently improve their communities through training, employment and business opportunities - but on a massive, unprecedented scale.

We found the opportunity in 2011, by providing sustainable business opportunities for Aboriginal people through the launch of our Billion Opportunities challenge. We set ourselves the target, which many regarded as ridiculously ambitious and set up to fail, to award $1 billion in contracts to Aboriginal businesses by the end of 2013. Not as welfare, but as responsible professional appointments to trained talented Aboriginal businesses, capable of delivering on a cost competitive basis to Fortescue’s very high standards.

While this is a significant achievement for all the local Aboriginal communities of the Pilbara and its impact will be far-reaching. To date, 200 contracts and subcontracts have been awarded to over 65 Aboriginal owned business and joint ventures, with a total contract value of over AUD$1.8 billion.   

This has set a new benchmark for the creation of sustainable opportunities for Aboriginal-owned business in Australia and will allow the Elders, business and governments to turn away from the thoroughly broken “cash handout” model pursued by government, encouraged towards business and suffered by Aboriginal people.

We have proven, beyond any doubt, that with the proper motivation, application and sincerity, sustainable economic development in Indigenous communities is the future.

Watch the video about the people who have benefited from A Billion Opportunities.