The aim of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inclusion programs is reconciliation. “Reconciliation is about unity and respect between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians. It is about respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and valuing justice and equity for all Australians.” (Australian Government definition)
You can participate in the reconciliation journey in a variety of ways, whether you are doing it as an individual or an organisation. You could start your cultural learning now by:
- reading a book about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture
- watching an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander film
- listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music
- going a cultural walking tour, or
- researching your local Aboriginal Land Council.
As an organisation, you can provide these same opportunities to your employees or even go further by:
- inviting a local Aboriginal Elder or leader in to speak
- celebrating NAIDOC Week and National Reconciliation Week
- hosting a bush tucker BBQ
- delivering an Acknowledgement of Country
- hosting a Welcome to Country
- displaying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags
- supporting an Indigenous community organisation
- mentoring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
- creating an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment program (for traineeships or permanent roles), or
- developing a Reconciliation Action Plan.
A Reconciliation Action Plan, or RAP, provides a framework for organiations to realise their vision for reconciliation. RAPs are practical plans of action built on relationships, respect and opportunities. RAPs create social change and economic opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Australians.
Reconciliation Australia, an independent not-for-profit organisation, was established in 2001 to be the lead body on reconciliation in the nation. Reconciliation Australia promotes and facilitates reconciliation by building relationships, respect and trust between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. They have designed the RAP framework to assist all organisations – big or small, corporate, government, education, not-for-profit – with putting a plan in place for reconciliation.
By starting any of the above activities, you’re starting your reconciliation journey. Both you and your organisation will learn a lot along the way. Our recommendation is to start small and add on as you go.
The mwah. way of reconciliation is a key piece of your diversity and inclusions programs as well as critical for every Australian to be aware of and participate in. Adding these programs to your diversity and inclusion plan is essential.
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Now you have the basics of what reconciliation is, the next step is to figure out how it can work for you. A Reconciliation Action Plan, or RAP, provides a good framework for all organisations to follow. Even if you don’t want to develop a RAP, it’s a good template to read through to get some ideas flowing.
A RAP gives your organisation the best chance of achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement objectives, and delivering broader outcomes. Every RAP has organisational commitments to reconciliation under the headings of relationships, respect and opportunities plus a governance and tracking section. And each commitment has a column for an action, deliverable, responsibility and timeline.
There are four different types of RAPs depending on where you with your reconciliation programs – Reflect, Innovate, Stretch and Elevate. The Reflect RAP is where most organisations start and the Reflect RAP template lists minimum requirements an organisation must commit to in order to be endorsed by Reconciliation Australia. After that you can add any items that are relevant to your organisation.
Before starting your RAP, you will need to gather some information to baseline your programs, like:
- How many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff do you employ?
- Why are you developing a RAP?
- What is your organisation’s reconciliation journey to date?
- Who champions your RAP internally?
- Who should be involved in developing your RAP? It is always good to have some of your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partners or stakeholders give input into the development of your RAP. And if you don’t have any relationships yet, Reconciliation Australia can make some suggestions for you.
- Do you have any current reconciliation partnerships such as community partnerships or any internal activities or initiatives you should talk about in your RAP?
And if you’d like to move forward with a RAP, these are the following areas you will need to include:
The relationships section acknowledges that working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, organisations and communities is necessary to strengthen and enhance business; seek advice and education; and develop a network of relationships to support your reconciliation work.
Relationships actions include:
- Establish a RAP Working Group – you will need to determine who will be implementing the action items.
- Build internal and external relationships – create a list of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations within your local area you could approach and start working with.
- Participate in and celebrate National Reconciliation Week (NRW) – Reconciliation Australia will have materials available that you can use and, in addition, encourage employees to attend an external NRW event (27 May – 3 June).
- Raise internal awareness of your RAP – develop a plan to raise awareness with employees and key stakeholders.
- And include any other relationship actions that are appropriate for your organisation such as engage senior leaders in the RAP, raise external awareness, support the Recognise campaign, etc.
The respect section shows how your organisation values respectful relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the way you do business, by increasing awareness amongst employees of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their relationship to land, their histories and cultures. This respect is important for fostering an inclusive workplace where all Australians can celebrate their shared history, and for attracting and retaining a diverse workforce.
Respect actions include:
- Investigate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural learning and development – there are many options available including www.shareourpride.org.au
- Participate in and celebrate NAIDOC Week (the first week of July) – you can raise awareness with employees and promote community events.
- Raise internal understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural protocols – explore who the Traditional Owners of the land and waters in your local area and across your organisation and raise awareness for Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome to Country protocols.
- And add any other respect actions that are appropriate to your organisation, such as celebrating dates of cultural significance or looking into cultural immersion programs.
The opportunities section shows that you intend to seek out opportunities to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates in your recruitment process and to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned businesses in your procurement process. Promoting these opportunities will contribute to closing the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other Australians and progress the sustainability of the communities in which we all operate.
Opportunities actions include:
- Investigate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment
- Investigate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander supplier diversity
- Any addition opportunities actions that are appropriate to your organisation like an internal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professional mentoring network, employment pathways like traineeships or internships or scholarships for students.
Governance and Tracking Progress
This section provides accountability and governance to your RAP and ensures you will track and report on your RAP.
- Build support for the RAP – determine how to track, measure and report on activities.
- Review and refresh RAP.
What can you do if you don’t do a Reconciliation Action Plan?
Today, many individuals and organisations are starting on their Reconciliation journeys. If a Reconciliation Action Plan may seem a bit much for you right now, that’s okay. It’s all about starting your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs – at whatever capacity and speed is appropriate for your organisation.
One easy way to get started is by celebrating National Reconciliation Week. This week “aims to give people across Australia the opportunity to focus on reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It is a time to reflect on achievements so far and on what must still be done to achieve reconciliation.” (Reconciliation Australia) National Reconciliation Week falls between 27 May and 3 June – two significant dates in the relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. 27 May is the anniversary of the 1967 referendum and 3 June is Mabo Day, the anniversary of the 1992 High Court judgement in the Mabo case.
There are lot of ways that you can celebrate National Reconciliation Week including:
- Learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at www.shareourpride.org.au
- Raise awareness of the reconciliation timelines in the resources section of: www.reconciliation.org.au/nrw
- Create a Recognition Wall in your workplace. Using the words “Recognition means…” as a starting point, create a display depicting colleagues’ written or visual interpretations of recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culture and customs. It could be a drawing, a poem or a story about someone they admire.
- Invite a local representative to speak at your organisation
- Invite a local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Elder/leader to speak at your organisation, on the topic of recognition and the history of the First Australians in your local area (contact your local Aboriginal council or reconciliation group). Encourage a discussion about recognition in the context of the 1967 referendum and the Mabo decision.
- Hold a Welcome to Country ceremony at your organisation. A Welcome to Country is a ceremony performed by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples to welcome visitors to their traditional land. To find out more, visit www.reconciliation.org.au
- Reconciliation timeline discussion. Choose events from the reconciliation timeline to use as the basis of discussion. Your workmates could discuss these events and what’s next for the future.
- Have a conversation focusing on both the positive and negative aspects of these topics: 1. Positive discrimination is necessary in a fair society. 2. Symbolic gestures of recognition are not as important as actions. 3. We have already achieved reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.
- Hold a 1967 referendum discussion. Many people saw the 1967 referendum as a significant achievement in the recognition of citizenship rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Many others believe it was just a symbolic gesture that did little to achieve real equality. Discuss with your colleagues.
- Host a BBQ. Try making damper or using native plants to cook, such as lemon myrtle or bush tomato. Check out other ideas on www.reconciliation.org.au/nrw and don’t forget to register your event.
- Book some Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander music.
- Listen to some of the talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers at your work. Some examples would be: Christine Anu, Dan Sultan, Gurrumul Yunupingu, The Mills Sisters, Tjupi Band.
- Commission artwork for your office.
- Support your local or other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists by purchasing an artwork.
- Get knowledgeable in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cinema. Organise a movie session to watch films such as: Beneath Clouds, Yolgnu Boy, Ten Canoes, Mad Bastards, The Sapphires, Toomelah, Radiance, Bran Nue Day and One Night the Moon.
- Promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander books for people to learn more.
- Create a Reconciliation Action Plan. A Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is a tool to help, businesses, organisations and schools build positive relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.
- Volunteer at a local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander group/ organisation or for Indigenous Community Volunteers: www.icv.com.au
- Write to a local politician/ PM or newspaper about the importance of reconciliation, advocating an issue in your local area, or celebrating a success story. Send it to your local MP, newspaper or post it online.
- Find out about a local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander event, art exhibition, festival (through local government or local Aboriginal councils/groups) and get involved.
- Google local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander cultural walking tours, or presentations to learn more about local knowledge.
As a next step, visit National Reconciliation Week www.reconciliation.org.au/nrw to find out this year’s theme and get ideas on how you can celebrate. And if this week isn’t the right time for this, you can do any of these activities at any point throughout the year!
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Becoming an expert in the mwah. way of reconciliation takes time but it’s all about figuring out what’s right for you.
If you want to also be an expert in how to develop a Reconciliation Action Plan, read through some of the hundreds of RAPs at www.reconciliation.org.au and use the templates they’ve provided. And if you just want to learn more about Australian’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, issues, events and culture, check out the links below.
Information on RAPs and Welcome to Country ceremonies can be found at the Reconciliation Australia website: www.reconciliation.org.au
Share Our Pride Cultural e-learning tool
For more information on the High Court, the Australian Constitution and the Australian Parliament, visit the Parliament Education Office: www.peo.gov.au/kidsview/menu.html
For more information on Eddie Mabo and native title visit the Screen Australia website: www.mabonativetitle.com
More detailed information on the 1967 referendum is available from the National Museum of Australia: www.indigenousrights.net.au/section.asp?sID=5
Find out more about the Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at: www.recognise.org.au
Register your National Reconciliation Week event at: www.reconciliation.org.au/nrw
Australia Government – Reconciliation
National Archives – Fact Sheets on Indigenous Australians
Aboriginal Law Journal – Eddie Mabo and others vs the State of Queensland
Listen to K Fletcher, Sorry Song (1998)
Watch Kevin Rudd deliver the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples
Watch From Little Things Big Things Grow by The GetUp Mob (includes sample of The Apology).
Watch Blood Brothers – From Little Things Big Things Grow
Watch clips from films about Indigenous Australia @ Australian Screen
National Film and Sound Archive, Charles Perkins – Freedom Ride (video). Excerpt from the program Charles Perkins, an episode of Australian Biography
Indigenous Governance Awards:
State Reconciliation Councils
The Reconciliation Victoria website contains information on events and activities to be held in Victoria:
The Reconciliation WA website contains information on upcoming events and activities in WA:
The Reconciliation Queensland Inc. website contains information on events and activities to be held in Queensland:
The Reconciliation NSW website contains information on events and activities to be held in NSW:
ReconciliACTIONnsw is a network of Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people who have an interest in reconciliation and Indigenous rights issues and those who are active in their communities:
The site of the Koorie Heritage Trust Inc., a not-for-profit Aboriginal community organisation that aims to protect, preserve and promote the living culture of Aboriginal people of south-eastern Australia:
We are members of the Stolen Generation of the Kimberley and their families. Many Indigenous people of this region have been affected by Government policies which separated their families.
ABC Indigenous Online – portal for Indigenous news, events and information:
National Indigenous Times, Australia’s leading Indigenous affairs news provider:
This is a portal to Indigenous media and the arts in Australia:
Institutes, Tribunals, Councils
The Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) – CAEPR has discussion papers detailing the Government’s achievements with regard to reconciliation, particularly in the light of distinctions made between symbolic and practical elements:
The National Native Title Tribunal:
The Northern Land Council:
The Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) – providing information on the history, governance, and economic, social and cultural development of the Torres Strait region:
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), the world’s premier institution for information and research about the cultures and lifestyles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples:
Human Rights & Social welfare
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Social Justice Reports 2000, 2001 and 2003, containing specific sections on reconciliation:
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner:
The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet is an innovative web resource that makes knowledge and information on Indigenous health easily accessible to inform practice and policy:
This site provides a wealth of information on the Aboriginal history of the City of Sydney:
The Alice Springs Desert Leadership Program will increase the leadership capability of the Alice Springs community through two years of leadership development for the next generation of leaders:
Stats & Facts
Australian Bureau of Statistics – a source of all official statistics taken from censi and other findings:
The Australian Human Rights Commission has a general Q&A about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The facts contain information about population, disadvantage, representative bodies and much more:
An Australian Government initiative from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, which provides information and funding to help ensure all Australians are treated fairly regardless of their background:
Black Politics – Sarah Maddison
Why Warriors Lay Down and Die – Richard Trudgen
Welcome to my Country – Laklak Burarrwanga
Carpentaria – Alexis Wright
My Place – Sally Morgan
Don’t Take Your Love to Town – Ruby Langford
All My Mob – Ruby Langford
Am I Black Enough For You? – Anita Heiss
An intruder’s guide to North East Arnhem Land – Andrew McMillan
Who Am I? – Anita Heiss
Welcome to Country — Aunty Joy Murphy and illustrated by Lisa Kennedy
The Songlines – Bruce Chatwin
The Swan Book – Alexis Wright
That Deadman Dance – Kim Scott
Because A White Man’ll Never Do It – Kevin Gilbert
Sovereign Subjects. Edited by Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson
Rabbit Proof Fence – Doris Pilkington
Mabo: The Native Title Legislation – M.A. Stephenson
Aboriginal Australians – Richard Broome
First Australians is a documentary series that chronicles the birth of contemporary Australia as never told before, from the perspectives of its first people:
Showcases the amazing ingenuity of the Indigenous mechanics:
This site celebrates and shares the unique culture of the Yolgnu people from Raminginging in Central Arnhem Land:
Us Mob is a 7-part “choose your own adventure” series set in the central desert of Australia. It uses online characters and friendships to spark an exchange of culture, creativity and experience between non-Indigenous and Indigenous young people:
Rabbit Proof Fence (2002)
Ten Canoes (2006)
Yolgnu Boy (2001)
Samson & Delilah (2009)
Redfern Now (Series 1 & 2)
Bran Nue Dae (2009)
The Tracker (2002)
The Sapphires (2012)
Boxing for Palm Island (2010)
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978)
Beneath Clouds (2002)
Crocodile Dreaming (2007)
Mabo: Life of an Island Man (1997)
Vote Yes for Aborigines
Croker Island Exodus
For more movies and TV series:
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mwah. making work absolutely human