The role of Business in Reconciliation

Last week was Reconciliation Week, a time for us all to reflect on the progress made towards reconciliation and closing the gap. The theme for 2016 was Our History, Our Story, Our Future; acknowledging the importance of accepting history, listening to the individual stories and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and highlighting the role of reconciliation in closing the gap. 

But what part can organisations play in working towards reconciliation? Participating in Reconciliation Week activities is one way for an organisation and its employees to show their solidarity, both with Aboriginal employees within their business, and also the Aboriginal community. While this is one way for organisations to demonstrate their support, it is also imperative that their reconciliation actions are connected with the broader business.

Australian organisations can play a major role in creating social and economic opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Many organisations have a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which provides a useful framework for outlining their reconciliation vision, and also contains details of planned activities and initiatives to support reconciliation. One organisation that we work with has recently connected their well-established RAP with their newly developed D&I Strategy.

There are many benefits for organisations which arise from incorporating their RAP into their Diversity Strategy, including:

  • Enabling organisations to take a more holistic view of diversity, rather than a siloed approach requiring separate strategies for different groups e.g. women, people with a disability etc.
  • Aligning reconciliation activities and events with other initiatives which support diversity more broadly
  • Building on the clear business case for diversity, which provides a financial impetus for organisations to become more diverse and inclusive in order to both attract and retain greater diversity
  • Incorporating the learning from activities they have rolled out as part of their RAP regarding the types of activities and initiatives that work best to engage their employees, and consideringthis when planning their Diversity activities

Ultimately an organisation which is inclusive of all people, through an inclusive culture, inclusive leaders and inclusive infrastructure (e.g. their systems and processes), will be able to capitalise on the diversity of thought, background and experience within their business.

by Tara Zwaans, D&I Manager, Diversity Inclusion