International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples


Hannah Cowley - Supply Chain Lead, Sustainable Procurement

Indigenous People

Did you know there are over 476 million indigenous people living in 90 countries across the world, accounting for 6.2% of the global population and 15% of the extreme poor?

Indigenous peoples represent the greater part of the world’s cultural diversity, with unique traditions, knowledge systems and have created and speak the major share of the world’s almost 7000 languages. Their distinct social and cultural groups share collective ancestral ties to the lands and natural resources where they live, and are inextricably linked to their identities, livelihoods, as well as their physical and spiritual well-being.

Numerous indigenous peoples worldwide are self-governing, ranging from the Haudenosaunee in North America, to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. However, many indigenous peoples lack formal recognition over their lands, territories and natural resources, are often last to receive public investments in basic services and infrastructure, and face multiple barriers to participate fully in the formal economy, enjoy access to justice, political processes and decision making. This legacy of inequality and exclusion has made indigenous communities more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and natural hazards, especially highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, where vulnerabilities have been exacerbated with the lack of access to national health, water and sanitation systems, the shutting down of local markets, and mobility restrictions that have greatly impacted their livelihoods, food insecurity, and well-being.

Indigenous peoples’ experiences in the world of work is undergoing transformation due to enforced migration off their lands. Historically living in rural areas and primarily relying on agriculture and natural resources to ensure their livelihoods, increasingly, Indigenous People are residing in urban areas and work in a range of different economic sectors such as construction, manufacturing, apparel, mining and quarrying and utilities supply. More than 86% of Indigenous Peoples globally work in informal economies, compared to 66% for their non-indigenous counterparts, which increases their risk of exposure to violations of rights at work and lack of social protection. However, even when in salaried work, Indigenous People often experience situations of extreme vulnerability marked by discrimination, low pay and poor working conditions.

The global nature of our supply network poses many challenges. With numerous touchpoints all over the world, our supply chains can hide risks around forced labour, dangerous working conditions, environmental damage, corruption and more. Due diligence assessments are vital, and our supply chain risk management strategy must be resilient, thinking beyond compliance only “value protect” and extending our corporate values of equal opportunity and diversification throughout our supply chain to create “value added” benefit to more than just QinetiQ.

So how are we at QinetiQ engaging with and supporting Indigenous communities through our operations?


QinetiQ Australia - Supplier Diversification and engaging Indigenous businesses

Our business in Australia commenced its reconciliation journey in 2015 and formally confirmed its commitment in late 2019 following the launch of our first Reconciliation Action Plan (Reflect). The Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) process helps us to gain a better understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures whilst functioning as a framework to develop a deeper engagement with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Importantly the RAP enables us to define our vision for reconciliation so that subsequent RAPs are meaningful, sustainable and truly supportive of the community. Our RAP affirms QinetiQ's commitment towards the Australian Government’s “Closing the Gap” strategy by: providing employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians through direct employment; increasing our engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned businesses; and supporting STEM and career pathways support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians through outreach programs.

One of the key actions identified in our Reflect RAP has been to focus on building our supplier network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses, looking for long term partnership opportunities. To assist this process, we prepared a framework for competing our business-side services that provides the opportunity for identified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned businesses to participate. The first of these tender processes was the establishment of a preferred supplier panel for the freight and logistics services required to meet the needs of our business.  Following a competitive process and robust evaluation, QinetiQ entered into agreements with a small number of suppliers, one of which is a Certified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned Business. Going forward, tender processes for a range of other business-wide services, will continue to explore additional opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned businesses to participate in our business. To support us in this process, QinetiQ has recently achieved membership with Supply Nation, an organisation that can better help us to identify and connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned businesses that may be able to support our supply chain needs.


QinetiQ UK - Internal Repression of Indigenous Persons

Due diligence sanctions checks performed by a QinetiQ Sanctions Advisor are part of the supplier on-boarding process. We need to know who we are dealing with.

Internal repression may take many forms. The most recently publicised example highlights modern slavery and the Internal Repression and enslavement of the Muslim minority in the Uyghur region of China. The indigenous population, with separate identity and culture, have had their access and personal freedom restricted by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. “Forcibly” migrated from their own region to pick high grade cotton for supply into China’s clothing industry, and by extension, into many high street brands.  This was original brought to the public attention by the BBC in December 2020.

The concept of Internal Repression can be much more subtle than that and for this reason is one of the eight criteria against which a UK export licence is considered before being approved. A licence will not be granted for defence equipment if there is a clear risk that the export might be used for this purpose; considering whether there is a viable internal threat in the destination country. The recently updated EU Dual Use regulation of “Human Security”, particularly in respect of “cyber-surveillance items” and covert surveillance of natural persons by monitoring or collecting and analysing data gathered in this way, addresses the increasing and anticipated use of technology in such repression.

Now that the UK has separated from the EU, it has the power to impose sanctions on persons and organisations independently. The UK Sanctions list not only designates by country, but also under a separate Act “The Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020”. Having its origin following the death of Sergei Magnitsky in Moscow’s Butyrka prison, a listing here is usually made as a result of gross human rights abuses such as: the Uyghur Muslims (above), the killing of Jamal Kashoggi, the dispossession of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, actions against protestors in Belarus etc.  All of the listed Entities is subject to an asset freeze and/or travel ban.


QinetiQ US – Sioux Manufacturing Corporation

In April 2001, Foster-Miller Incorporated (as was), now QinetiQ Incorporated, began a partnership with Sioux Manufacturing Corporation, which is a 100% tribally owned business located on the Spirit Lake Nation reservation in Fort Totten, North Dakota, US. This Native American company, is a self-certified Small Disadvantaged Business and certified HUBZone Small Business Concern.

The Spirit Lake Nation reservation is comprised of 90,000 acres with 7,500 members of which 60 work at the 250,000 square foot facility.

During the 20 year relationship, QinetiQ has subcontracted the fabrication and/or assembly of more than 600,000 panels to SMC ranging in size from “simple” Kevlar Reinforced Plastic (KRP) blocks that are 2 inch wide X 4 inch long X 0.5 inch thick, to complete Ballistic Armour Panels which are assembled using KRP blocks, ceramic tiles and various adhesives that are 24 inch square X 0.75 inch thick and weighing 30 pounds.


Our industry is constantly evolving, and our customers are looking to QinetiQ and our supply chain to deliver innovation to an ever growing suite of complex problems. Diversity of thought and problem solving through collaboration with our indigenous populations around the world, where we operate to buy local and build resilient ecosystems, will enable us to be sustainable and prosperous.


Find out more about the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples here

Discover more on working with us on our Suppliers & SMEs website pages here