A NSW Government website

First Nations Guidelines

The NSW Government is committed to genuine and meaningful engagement with local Aboriginal communities in the implementation of the Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap (the Roadmap). 

The Minister for Energy has issued guidelines on consultation and negotiation with local Aboriginal communities for energy infrastructure delivered under the Roadmap as required under section 4(1) of the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020 (EII Act).

The First Nations Guidelines (the Guidelines) set out the expectations for consultation and negotiation with local Aboriginal communities and their aspirations for increasing employment and income opportunities in the construction and operation of new electricity infrastructure projects in New South Wales, delivered under the Roadmap. 

There are two parts to the First Nations Guidelines:

The general Guidelines

The general Guidelines provide information about best practice engagement and negotiation with local Aboriginal communities. 

They outline factors which decision makers are required to take into account when exercising key functions under the EII Act related to Roadmap projects. 

The Guidelines recommend that project proponents be required to prepare an Industry and Aboriginal Participation Plan documenting the engagement approach and the agreed commitments with local Aboriginal stakeholders.

The region-specific Guidelines

The general Guidelines are supported by region-specific Guidelines for each of the five Renewable Energy Zones (REZs). 

The region-specific Guidelines outline the local Aboriginal communities’ goals and aspirations for income and employment opportunities, as well as their preferred method of engagement with Roadmap project proponents and Government. 

The region-specific Guidelines provide clear guidance for Roadmap project proponents to consult and negotiate with local Aboriginal communities in the Renewable Energy Zones. 

The aspirations and priority activities in the region-specific Guidelines will inform the workforce development and job opportunities for local Aboriginal communities, as well as developing the pathways for local Aboriginal businesses to access tendering opportunities and secure work packages within the development and operation of the REZs. 

Each region-specific guideline is co-developed with representatives from the local Aboriginal communities, with assistance from Aboriginal consultants to ensure engagement and consultation is culturally appropriate and that content is community driven and relevant to the needs and opportunities of the Aboriginal people and businesses of that region.

Central-West Orana Guidelines

The First Nations Guidelines: Central-West Orana are the first region-specific Guidelines to be finalised. 

The Guidelines were developed in close consultation with a working group representing local Aboriginal communities in and around the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone and was first published in August 2022. 

Following a review of the Guidelines undertaken with the Central-West Orana Working Group, an updated version was published in October 2023. The updated version contains a new contact point for project proponents wanting to engage with the working group, revised guidance for how proponents should engage, and updated demographic and economic data from the 2021 Census.

Hunter-Central Coast Guidelines

The First Nations Guidelines: Hunter-Central Coast were published in May 2024.

The Guidelines have been developed with the Hunter-Central Coast First Nations Working Group, who represent local Aboriginal communities from the Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone.

South West Guidelines

The First Nations Guidelines: South West were published in May 2024. 

The Guidelines have been developed with the South West First Nations Working Group, who represent local Aboriginal communities from the South West Renewable Energy Zone. 

The NSW Government is facilitating the development of region-specific Guidelines for the remaining two Renewable Energy Zones, New England and Illawarra.

Further information

Further information can be found in these resources and supporting documents:

Frequently asked questions

What are the Guidelines?

The NSW Government’s First Nations Guidelines outline expectations for best practice consultation and negotiation with local Aboriginal communities increase employment and income opportunities from projects delivered under the Roadmap, including in Renewable Energy Zones.

Who should use the Guidelines?

The Guidelines provide best practice guidance to project proponents and decision makers around meaningful and genuine consultation and negotiation with First Nations communities. They support the objects in sections 3(1)(f) and 3(2) of the EII Act to increase opportunities and benefits to local Aboriginal people and businesses deriving from Roadmap activities. The Guidelines are to be taken into account by key decision makers – the Minister for Energy and Consumer Trustee - when carrying out their functions under the EII Act.

Are the Guidelines the only requirement project proponents need to consider?

The Guidelines do not replace or change any other legislative requirements already in effect. 

Developers must still consider all other relevant planning, environmental, heritage requirements pertaining to their proposed development.

Where is the socio-economic information drawn from? Why is it not more recent?

The socio-economic information in the region-specific Guidelines is taken from the most recent census data available – in the case of the updated Central-West Orana Guidelines, the Hunter-Central Coast Guidelines and the South West Guidelines, this was the 2021 Census data. The Guidelines will continue to be updated with new Census data as part of periodic reviews.

What are the targets in the Aboriginal Procurement Policy and what are they based on?

Proponents are required to prepare an Industry and Aboriginal Participation Plan that would detail how one, or a combination, of the following minimum requirements, would be delivered:

  • at least 1.5% of the contract value to be subcontracted to Aboriginal-owned businesses
  • at least 1.5% of the contract’s Australian-based workforce (FTE) that directly contributes to the contract to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • at least 1.5% of the contract value to be applied to the cost of education, training or capacity building for Aboriginal staff or businesses directly contributing to the contract
What was the process for developing the general Guidelines?

A Project Steering Committee was established to oversee the development of the general Guidelines. 

Members include representatives from:

  • NSW Aboriginal Land Council
  • Aboriginal Employment Strategy
  • Native Title Service Corporation
  • NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Regional Alliances
  • National Indigenous Australians Agency
  • Department of Regional NSW
  • Aboriginal Affairs
  • Department of Planning and Environment.
What has been the process of developing the region-specific Guidelines?

A Working Group has been formed to develop each region-specific Guideline. Through consultation and discussion, the Working Group identified key goals and aspirations on behalf of their communities that proponents should consider when planning for and submitting projects under the Roadmap.

How were the Working Groups established?

The Working Groups for each REZ were established consisting of local Aboriginal community representatives from each of those REZs. These representatives include Elders and knowledge-holders from Aboriginal community groups and other organisations that provide support and services to the various Aboriginal communities within that region. The Working Groups were established for the purposes of contributing to the development and co-design of the region-specific Guidelines, to ensure they reflect the economic aspirations of the local communities

What are the next steps for the Working Group?

Following the development of the Guidelines, the Working Groups will continue to meet with the purpose of providing a consistent voice for each REZ in relation to Aboriginal income and employment opportunities.

How will commitments made under Aboriginal Participation Plans be monitored and enforced?

For successful proposals, the participation plans submitted as part of an application will then form a part of the contract and will be subject to monitoring and reporting as outlined in the EII Act. 

Proponents are also strongly encouraged to keep local Aboriginal communities updated on the progress of meeting the commitments and the project itself.

How often with the Guidelines be reviewed?

The Minister may amend the First Nations Guidelines from time to time. The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) will review the First Nations Guidelines at least every 2 years and will update in consultation with the Working Groups, to ensure they remain relevant and appropriate for the local Aboriginal community.

Who has been consulted on the General Guidelines?

Feedback on the General Guidelines was received from key Aboriginal stakeholders including New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, Aboriginal Employment Strategy, National Indigenous Australians Agency, NTS Corp and, First Nations Clean Energy Network.

A targeted consultation process with industry on the guidelines was also conducted, including through existing Roadmap industry consultation forums.

What has been updated in the October 2023 version of the First Nations Guidelines: Central West Orana

The First Nations Guidelines: Central-West Orana were first published in August 2022. An updated version was published in October 2023, following a review of the Guidelines in consultation with a Working Group made up of local Aboriginal community representatives. 

The updated First Nations Guidelines: Central-West Orana include a First Nations Outcomes Team to support the Working Group to coordinate consultation, engagement and implementation of programs and initiatives that deliver outcomes to local Aboriginal communities. The First Nations Outcomes Team is now the first contact point for energy proponents wanting to engage the Working Group. 

The updated Guidelines also include guidance on how energy proponents can proactively engage with the working group, such as bringing forward proposals for how Aboriginal people and Aboriginal businesses can obtain skills training, employment opportunities, or experience providing goods and services on renewable energy projects. 

Other key updates include:

  • updated Australian Bureau of Statistics data from the 2021 Census
  • a clearer purpose for the working group
  • provisions to enable the working group to ensure representation of the local Aboriginal community remains appropriate over time.
When will Guidelines be announced for the other REZs in NSW?

The First Nations Guidelines: New England and the First Nations Guidelines: Illawarra will be developed in consultation with respective local Aboriginal communities and are expected to be finalised in 2024.

Who is the contact for project proponents seeking to engage, consult and negotiate with the region-specific Guidelines First Nations Working Groups?

The Energy Corporation of NSW (EnergyCo) has established a First Nations Outcomes team, with dedicated staff to coordinate consultation, engagement and implementation of programs and initiatives that deliver outcomes to local Aboriginal communities under the EII Act. It specifically looks at promoting employment, training and income generating opportunities for Aboriginal communities in the REZs. 

As part of this program, EnergyCo’s First Nations Outcomes team will support the region-specific First Nations Working Groups in:

liaising with proponents during the development of their Industry and Aboriginal Participation Plans

coordinating and supporting the Working Groups to engage and negotiate with proponents from project inception through project delivery and operation. 

EnergyCo’s First Nations Outcomes team is the first port of call for proponents seeking to engage, consult and negotiate with the region-specific Working Groups. Proponents who contact the Central-West Orana Working Group members will be redirected to the First Nations Outcomes team. 

The team can be contacted at [email protected] or 1800 118 894.