5 Ways To Be An Ally To Indigenous Employees On Australia Day

Today we delivered our Survival Day webinar which attracted almost 1000 registrations and over 350 live participants!

Clearly, throughout Australia there is increased understanding that January 26th is not the date to celebrate, and a growing desire to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Amongst our guests was the team from HRM, the Australian HR Institute news site. They wrote this wonderful article summarising their takeaways from today’s webinar and encouraging employers to take action, not just tomorrow, but every day.

Here Are HRM’s 5 Takeaways From Our Survival Day Webinar:

  1. Learn about Traditional Owners

    Step one involves doing your research and becoming immersed in the rich history and stories of Indigenous Australia.

    If you’re looking to be an ally to First Nations Australians, it’s essential to learn whose country you’re working on, and learn a basic greeting in their local language, explains Aunty Munya. This kind of information could be circulated across the organisation.

    “I always ask people, do you know of any Indigenous names for Australia?” says Aunty Munya.

    Carla, who is not Indigenous, says it originally hadn’t occurred to her that Australia might have been named prior to colonisation. She says learning these names, and how to pronounce them correctly, is a good starting point for reflection by non-Indigenous allies.

  2. Understand First Nations perspectives

    Understanding the breadth of First Nations history compared to the relatively recent colonial presence in Australia is important when considering how to respond to Australia Day celebrations.

    “Some Aboriginal people do celebrate Australia Day and that’s great,” says Aunty Munya. “That’s their choice. But we mustn’t forget that for a lot of people, it is considered an invasion day.”

    “For many Australians, 26 January can’t be seen as anything other than a day of mourning,” she says

    “I’m all for having a day of celebration of some kind for all of us,” says Carla. “But we need to reflect much more deeply on what it is we’re celebrating, and when we’re going to do that.”

  3. Consider Alternatives

    Let’s say a company decides to do something different on Australia Day and takes a stand against celebrating on 26 January. What possible alternatives exist?

    At an organisational level, this could mean providing an allowance for employees to take leave on a different day during the year. For example, floating public holidays allow employees to swap out a day that doesn’t suit them for one that does.

    The process is the same as any other time an employee approaches their manager for leave approval. They put in the request and the change is then recorded on the employee’s timesheet so they can be paid correctly.

  4. Share with colleagues and collaborate

    Changing attitudes requires cooperation and communication. For truly effective action, this change needs to start at the top.

    For non-Indigenous employees, Carla recommends elevating Indigenous voices and perspectives in the workplace, doing your homework, and owning and learning from mistakes, such as unintentionally saying something offensive.

    At an organisational level, businesses have an opportunity to foster an environment where Indigenous issues are at the forefront of employees’ minds. Making an Acknowledgement of Country at the start of company meetings and events, for example, is a simple preliminary step towards greater recognition of Indigenous Australia within an organisation.

    Aunty Munya also suggests that businesses work with Indigenous organisations, where possible. This can be an effective way of supporting Indigenous organisations, furthering your own knowledge of Indigenous issues and cultural expressions, and co-creating solutions to a problem together.

  5. Build a Reconciliation Action Plan

    Developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is a great way for organisations to create long-term change by including reconciliation initiatives as part of their strategic planning. 

    There are different RAP types for organisations at different stages of the reconciliation journey. The Reflect level, for example, is for organisations that are newer to reconciliation, while the Innovate level is for organisations looking to take their efforts towards reconciliation a step further.

You can read the full HRM article here and learn more about how Evolve Communities can support your organisation to build cultural competency, meet Reconciliation targets and inspire Allyship here.

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