gutsy advocate for a fair and healthy community

We use our collective voice to help address inequities impacting our members and those we see falling behind.

why we advocate


At HESTA, we understand the responsibility that comes with having over 1 million members trust us to look after their financial future. HESTA advocates to advance fair financial outcomes for members in their retirement and throughout their working life.

HESTA's advocacy aims to address systemic issues that risk financial security for members. 

About 80% of HESTA members are women, more likely to be earning what is considered a low to middle income. Female HESTA members will earn around 16% less than their male counterparts on average, are less likely to be able to save outside their super and are more likely to struggle to meet day-to-day expenses. Many of our members spend time in unpaid caregiving, which adds enormous economic benefit to the country at the expense of their own financial security.

HESTA advocates to improve the drivers of financial disadvantage, which can include issues of gender equality, workplace rights and conditions, environmental and health matters, superannuation and social security settings, and others.


advocating for real world change


To address systemic issues that risk financial security for members HESTA can seek relevant changes or development of laws, regulations, standards or guidelines that aim to advance broad improvements across the economy or sectors of the economy.

We engage with decision makers and contribute to applicable policy debates directly and through our membership of collective organisations:

HESTA policy submissions

HESTA contributes to public policy as part of our advocacy work. HESTA policy submissions are available below.

For any policy-related questions, please contact Karen Volpato on 03 7065 1475 or




recent advocacy initiatives


A focus on gender equality

About 80% of HESTA members are women and more likely to be earning what is considered a low to middle income. Female HESTA members will earn around 16% less than their male counterparts on average.

Women are more likely to experience low wages throughout their working lives and time out of the paid workforce to care for others, leaving them facing a less financially secure future. 

Improving retirement outcomes for women involves seeking to change the drivers of gender inequality.


Improving equity in super

We’re calling for a rethink on how super tax concessions could be better targeted to support those who need it most. It’s why we’re asking for changes to the low-income super tax offset (LISTO).

The LISTO is a federal government tax rebate of up to $500 to eligible low-income earners (on less than $37,000 per year). The LISTO was designed so that low-income earners do not pay more tax on their super contributions than on their take-home pay.

A key result of our proposed changes to the LISTO would be that lower-paid workers would have higher super savings, especially women and workers in regional and rural areas.


Paying super on paid parental leave

The Commonwealth Parental Leave Pay scheme is the only commonly taken form of paid leave that does not include super. We believe this sends a clear message that unpaid caring work continues to be undervalued in our society.

All parents should be confident their super can keep growing as their families grow. Women take 87%* of paid primary carer’s leave, which disadvantages them because it exacerbates financial insecurity in retirement and is one of the primary reasons why women retire on average with one-third less super than men.

By paying super on the Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave Scheme, the government has an opportunity to make real progress on boosting women’s financial security in retirement.

Read more about super on paid parental leave.


*source: WGEA Scorecard 2022: ‘The state of gender equality in Australia’, p5.


‘Carer Credit’ for unpaid parental leave

The majority of Australia’s two million carers are women. Many need to give up paid work to take up caring, yet they receive no super for this important work. In addition to superannuation on the Commonwealth Parental Leave Pay scheme, the Government should introduce and fund a ‘carer credit’ to compensate parents for superannuation lost due to unpaid parental leave.

We believe that even a small boost to a primary carer’s super would create huge potential long-term benefits at retirement.

Read why it’s time the Government takes steps to improve financial security for older women.


40:40 Vision

In October 2020, HESTA launched 40:40 Vision, an investor-led initiative to achieve gender balance of 40% identifying as female, 40% identifying as male and 20% identifying as any gender in executive leadership across Australia’s largest 300 listed companies.

The 40:40 Vision initiative has created a platform for other companies to pledge their support. Currently, institutional investors representing over $6 trillion in assets have joined the 40:40 Vision commitment to gender balance in senior leadership across all ASX300 companies by 2030.


Workplace equality

HESTA made a submission seeking to strengthen the role of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) because advancing workplace equality can improve women’s financial security.

Poverty in retirement is a stark reality for many women after a lifetime of paid and unpaid work. Improving gender equality, diversity and fair and equal treatment in the workplace can make a significant contribution to improving our members’ financial security in retirement as the gender pay gap and reduced workforce participation are central drivers of the gender superannuation gap. 

HESTA advocates that a requirement to report an employer’s relevant Executive Summary from WGEA and Industry Benchmark reports to the board would help to maintain focus on these issues and increase the necessary commitment from, and ownership by, leadership to ensure they are addressed. Progress to close the gender pay gap will also be supported through greater transparency.


protecting aboriginal heritage


When the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge was destroyed, HESTA called for Rio Tinto to urgently address how their business processes reflected community expectations to act with respect in partnership with traditional owners.  

HESTA worked with a galvanised network of institutions to achieve an agreement with Rio Tinto on improved disclosure and governance arrangements. 

Since the release of the final report from the Parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of the 46,000 year old caves at Juukan Gorge by Rio Tinto, we have continued to call for change throughout the mining sector and for laws that better protect Traditional Owners and their heritage. 


Why Indigenous rights and cultural heritage are important

Our vision is for a respectful, confident and equitable Australia.

At HESTA, we think and act holistically about how to achieve strong, long-term investment returns while contributing to a healthier society for our members to retire into. A key part of this is considering whether the companies we invest in have strong and respectful relationships with their stakeholders. This is essential to realising long-term company value.

Yet in May 2020, one our investee companies – Rio Tinto – destroyed 46 000-year-old culturally significant caves at Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and with them, the trust with First Nations People around Australia. The destruction of the sites represented a failure to respect the rights of First Peoples and protect cultural heritage of immense significance to the local PKKP people and all Australians.

The cost to investors

The destruction of the caves illustrated how a company’s failures can damage their reputation and community acceptance. When a company’s social licence to operate is damaged like this, it’s shareholders that pay the long-term cost. And that can negatively impact the value of our members’ investments, and, ultimately, their retirement outcomes. 

In the case of Rio Tinto in particular, the cost may include:

  • possible delays in permitting
  • potential reparations and a moratorium on mining in the local area
  •  a lack of trust from Traditional Owners and reticence to engage in future agreements
  • Board and management time and resources spent responding to the fallout of the company’s actions, and
  •  the resource-intensive road ahead to rebuild reputation.

It’s clear to us at HESTA that relationships between Rio Tinto and the Traditional Owners cannot be rebuilt if priorities, aspirations and perspectives of Traditional Owners are not heard.


The true scope of the issue – not just Rio Tinto

Following the destruction of the caves, we undertook a series of meetings with Rio Tinto.

One of our central asks of Rio Tinto, is for them report to investors how they are progressing in their commitments to rebuild relationships from the perspective of Traditional Owners. Rio Tinto has recently released the first iteration of this report. While the transparency is promising, the Traditional Owner groups who provided feedback are clear there is a long way to go to restore trust.

However, our work on this has not only focused on Rio Tinto.

What was particularly shocking about the Juukan Gorge incident was that not only were Rio Tinto considered leaders in this area, but that the destruction of the caves was technically legal.

This suggested to us the risks posed to investors were not specific to Rio Tinto but systemic in nature. This means the potential risk to super fund members’ retirement outcomes is widespread and significant.

Our concerns about the systemic nature of these risks were validated by the findings of the Parliamentary Inquiry’s December 2020 interim report into the destruction of the caves at Juukan Gorge.

To properly address these risks, we need change, not only at Rio Tinto, but throughout the mining sector and at a legislative and a regulatory level.  This requires a multi-faceted approach.


Encouraging change

To address broader mining sector risks, we have written to and met with many investee companies to learn about their approaches and to communicate our expectations of how they should partner sustainably with Indigenous communities.

After this series of meetings, we compiled examples of good practices and shared them publicly. Traditionally, investors have relied on company disclosures and meetings to understand and assess how well they are managing systemic risk and their own social license. However, the shocking events at Juukan Gorge showed significant gaps between public commitments and operational reality.

To gain a better perspective on sector risks we have built relationships with Traditional Owners, their representatives, and Indigenous peak bodies. Their generous sharing of their perspectives was essential to us gaining a better understanding of what was happening on-the-ground.

We’ve also been strongly encouraged mining companies to adopt and promote a culture of considering whether they ‘should’ do something rather than whether they ‘can’ do something. As what’s currently legal may not be right as the law in many cases hasn’t kept up with community expectations.

Cultural heritage law reform as core part of our work in this area. That’s why we’re also advocating to improving important legal protections ensure that laws and practices can better adapt to changing community expectations. We have provided numerous submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry and State consultations on this topic and supporting standards that peak Indigenous advisory bodies have called for.

On occasions where companies make decisions and discover a gap between the letter of the law and community expectations, it’s investors such as HESTA who bear the costs, which ultimately results in lower returns for our members.

How does HESTA see a better future?

As investors, we want to strengthen company accountability and encourage investee companies to build trust with Traditional Owners. We need companies, including Boards, to build trust with the communities whose land they operate on or near and we need them to find a way to honestly disclose their progress to investors.

We want legislation that better protects Traditional Owners and their heritage. If there’s a breakdown of communication or standards by a company, legislation must act as a safety net for communities. The trust of traditional owners is essential in the mining sector, to ensure the long-term investment value on which our members’ retirement outcomes depend.






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