Author: 
Tiffany Tento, Queensland Council of Social Service

National Reconciliation Action Week (27 May to 3 June) is celebrated in Australia each year, in commemoration of two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey – the anniversaries of the successful 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision.

This year’s theme is Our history, our story, our future and is taken from the State of Reconciliation in Australia report which “asks all Australians to reflect on our national identity, and the place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and rights in our nation’s story.”

The week is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements and to explore how each of us can join the national reconciliation effort.

One method of driving the national reconciliation effort is through the creation of a Reconciliation Action Plan which provides a framework for organisations to realise their vision for reconciliation. A RAP enables organisations to clearly commit to implementing and measuring practical actions that can help build respectful relationships and create opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

What is a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP)?

There are four different RAPs - Reflect; Innovate; Stretch; and Elevate – each designed to suit different organisations, regardless of where they are on the reconciliation journey.

Reconciliation Australia outlines the benefits of developing a RAP to give your organisation the best chance of achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement objectives, and delivering broader outcomes:

  • The opportunity to become an employer of choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • A more dynamic, innovate and diverse workforce.
  • A more culturally safe and tolerant workforce.
  • Access to new markets and better penetration of existing markets.
  • Better service delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.
  • The opportunity to contribute to new projects, industries, services, products and ways of doing business.

Patrick Dodson, co-chairperson Referendum Council on constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, states in his foreword in The State of Reconciliation in Australia: “Reconciliation must transcend Australian political theatre and promote a sense of national unity. All Australians should feel, as a nation, connected to the tens of thousands of years of human occupation of the Australian continent and surrounding Islands.”

The report concludes by saying: "Despite the challenges, there is an underlying desire for a more unified nation. This presents a pivotal opportunity to work together for reconciliation. As a nation, we must focus on the things that unite us so that we can redress the things that still divide us. We must continue to harness the goodwill and aspirations of the Australian people and continue the national conversation for the next 25 years to achieve a reconciled, just and equitable Australia.”

What are other community service organisations doing?

QCOSS will showcase two Queensland organisations and their RAPs in upcoming issues of Focal point  –  UnitingCare Queensland who have had a RAP in place since 2012, and HESTA who recently developed their first RAP. Both organisations have taken the positive and decisive step to be part of the journey towards reconciliation.

QCOSS’ own Stretch RAP 2015-2017 outlines our vision for reconciliation which “incorporates a shared pride as a nation in the richness and diversity of cultures and knowledge that exists in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and embracing opportunities together. Without this commitment there can be no end to poverty and disadvantage for individuals and families in our communities.”  

Evidence clearly shows the RAP program is having an impact by helping to create opportunities in employment, education and business for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, by creating positive attitudes and behaviours in organisations with RAPs and the wider community, and by promoting meaningful engagement and conversations about what our shared future should look like.

For further information, visit the Reconciliation Australia website, or find out how to develop your own Reconciliation Action Plan.

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