Aboriginal Reconciliation is not one solution, event, or activity. Rather, it is an approach that requires consistency, sensitivity & active listening, working on better understanding, acknowledgment and appreciation of both the past history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the values their cultures bring to Australia today.
Creating a Reconciliation Action Plan, or ‘RAP,’ means an organisation, group, or company has a framework set out to show how they will promote inclusivity and contribute towards Reconciliation, building stronger relationships and fostering an environment that is safe and culturally sensitive.
How Can Businesses Draft a Reconciliation Action Plan?
Publishing a RAP requires knowledge, consideration, and planning. It must take into account the needs of all individuals and the way the organisation recognises and respects them. It is also important to ensure the right infrastructure is in place to address and correct inequalities or lack of comprehension that can feel harmful or hostile to First Nations people.
A potential starting point could be to engage in National Reconciliation Week, speak to community leaders and Elders, and arrange training to upskill and inform business leaders and individuals about why a RAP is beneficial and important.
What is National Reconciliation Week? This annual event is an opportunity for all Australians to come together to share stories, mark achievements, learn from others and celebrate cultures and contributions.
Essentially, a RAP cannot be a static document that is created without consultation or inclusivity. It is a strategic and practical action plan that shows what an organisation is doing now to contribute towards Reconciliation and how it will adapt that commitment in the future or when it will revisit its RAP.
What Does a Reconciliation Action Plan Set Out to Achieve?
A RAP is intended to support efforts toward Reconciliation through the development of respectful relationships while offering opportunities for genuine and equitable inclusion or progression by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
These policies are used in a broad range of settings and are far from limited to making a workplace a culturally sensitive environment. RAPs are also relevant in schools, community groups, universities, government offices, and colleges, taking collective and coordinated action to foster a setting that offers opportunity on an equal basis.
Introducing a RAP has been shown to close employment gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, promoting social change and developing a culture that is dynamic and diverse, with a blend of cultural representation.
What Is the Benefit of Drafting a Reconciliation Action Plan?
Like any quantifiable action, Reconciliation will not happen automatically or without concerted efforts by all Australians. Using a proven model to cement and formalise your commitment to participate in active Reconciliation efforts means you demonstrate that your community or environment is focused on shared values, common goals, and working together.
Good intentions hold value but cannot generate forward movement or effective change. By using those intentions in a tangible action plan, you can solidify your efforts into positive efforts, working to remove or reduce prejudices and bias, promote pride and recognition of Indigenous culture, and ensure your organisation is built on a foundation of trust and respect.
The right approach may differ between organisations, but a good place to begin is by writing out your vision–what you think Reconciliation means, what it will do to change the environment you exist within, and why it is important to make a long-lasting difference.
Your vision might reflect on the ways you can enhance educational or employment opportunities, improve and progressively strengthen engagement and partnership with the Indigenous business community, or ensure you look at diversity across vendors, suppliers, and partners, as well as within your workforce.
How Should a Business Include Consultation Within a Reconciliation Action Plan?
As we’ve mentioned, a great RAP is a collaborative piece of work, and it is natural to perhaps get some things wrong or find that there are gaps in your strategy that need to be addressed. Involving people, stakeholders, partners, and the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in your plans is essential, particularly where your work or organisation is linked with initiatives, groups, and varied stakeholders who all may have different lived experiences and perspectives.
It is also a great way to introduce cultural awareness training, ensuring that your RAP is accepted and incorporated into your business, cultivating a greater depth of awareness and understanding, and engaging in the objectives and goals your RAP is intended to achieve.