Talking Reconciliation: What We Learnt Listening to the Voices that Matter Most
June 9, 2022
May 27th to June 3rd marks National Reconciliation Week – a time for all Australians to reflect on the role they play in furthering reconciliation between Indigenous Australians and Non-Indigenous Australians.
This year, the theme was Be Brave, Make Change, encouraging every single Australian to get involved with reconciliation and create change in their communities, and workplaces.
So what does this mean for businesses?
One of the ways that organisations and businesses are encouraged to move towards reconciliation is through the creation of Reconciliation Actions Plans (RAPs). Before you think it, a RAP isn’t just another corporate acronym – it is one of the most important steps that organisations can take towards supporting reconciliation. Through the RAP framework, organisations are provided with tools that can help them shape their journey towards defining tangible impact through real actions they can take and be held accountable for.
Purpose APAC started the journey of building our first RAP under the frameworks and guidance of Reconciliation Australia in 2021. Developing our own RAP is just the first step for us to begin to understand our responsibility and appropriate role in supporting reconciliation Australia wide.
As a way to learn and share the conversation with a broader audience, we hosted a panel discussion about Reconciliation Action Plans in alignment with National Reconciliation Week. The event covered things like why RAPs are important and the impact they have on Indigenous Australians in the workplace and beyond. We were lucky enough to be joined by three wonderful panellists who shared their personal experiences and reflections on reconciliation. Our panellists were, Bronte Charles (a proud Bundjalung woman, who is studying a Bachelor of Media and Marketing at Macquarie University, while working at NITV) Pauline Ferkula (a descendant of the Dunghutti Nation in Kempsey NSW, currently the Relieving Senior Manager of Aboriginal Education & Engagement with TAFE NSW) and Amy Smith (a Métis woman from Treaty 6 territory in Canada, and is a Senior Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Officer with Reconciliation Australia).
We’ve selected our favourite insights that were shared by our panellists – insights that are important to all individuals living and working in Australia.
Our panelists reflected on how important it is to have Indigenous involvement in the RAP process. While all the work can’t always fall on the Indigenous community to educate and lead the process of reconciliation, it is vital for Indigenous perspectives to be included and woven into the conversation, the process and the outcomes.
Amy, from Reconciliation Australia, highlighted the importance of a well thought out governance structure in corporate RAPs. She shared that often the RAP process is led by one or two people and, if they leave, the RAP tends to fall to the wayside. When organisations look to start the RAP process they need to ensure that it is supported by and within larger organisational structures.
Many organisations start the RAP process saying they want to make sure they are doing things the right way. Our panellists highlighted how important it is to make those mistakes, to be brave and ask the questions that are hard. It’s about feeling the discomfort and making changes despite it.
Bronte, who is still studying at university, shared the importance of being able to bring her full self to work everyday. When organisations create culturally safe spaces for people to share their authentic selves and their experiences, individuals not only feel comfortable at their place of work but can also work in a way that feels most natural to them, enabling everyone to thrive.
At the end of the day, organisations need to listen to the voices of Indigenous people. There are so many people who are trying to get their voices heard. It is up to organisations to amplify those voices and hear them when they make suggestions, point out organisational flaws and criticise structural issues.
for Equity & Evidence