It’s National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June), which is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements to contribute to a sense of national unity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples. This year’s theme is “Be Brave. Make Change.” 

A cartoon of diverse people with the words Be Brave Make Change next to them

At The Benevolent Society, we continue to build relationships, respect and opportunities that focus on engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities, other not-for-profit organisations, Reconciliation Australia and our staff. Our commitment to reconciliation is documented in the second iteration of our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) - Innovate.  

To acknowledge this year’s National Reconciliation Week, Michael Currie, Principal Advisor, Indigenous Development at The Benevolent Society, shares the key achievements from our 2019 – 2022 RAP Innovate, and what people can do at work, at home and in their communities to create a more unified Australia. 

Our Innovate RAP Achievements 

Our Reconciliation Action Plan is a call to action for us to work with First Nations People who will be the primary beneficiaries of our shared efforts. We measure our progress against the three pillars of reconciliation: Relationships, Respect and Opportunity. 

A photo of two Indigenous staff members at The Benevolent Society. They are facing right

“I’m really pleased to say that we’ve come a long way with our new RAP,” says Michael. “We’ve developed the organisations first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy which engages Indigenous Employment Partners to support our guiding principles for engagement and implementation.” 

Other achievements have included: 

  • Developing and establishing the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Capability Framework in consultation with our First Nations Workforce 
  • Developing and establishing the RAP Partnership Strategy, embedding principles of Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care’s (SNAICC) Genuine Partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled approaches
  • Engagement of First Nations consultants “Black Card” to provide key leadership staff to participate in formal and structured cultural learning
  • Increased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in strategic positions of influence and authority, as well as the establishment of senior identified positions in Practice and Business Development 

Our Reconciliation Action Plan documents our ongoing commitment to Australia's First Nations People and is reviewed and updated on a regular basis. 

Initiating Change

The National Reconciliation Week theme, “Be Brave. Make Change.” challenges all Australians to tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation so we can make change for the benefit of all Australians. 

“This year’s theme is asking everyone to be brave in their daily lives. It can be where they live, where they work or where they socialise,” explains Michael. 

An Indigenous staff member from The Benevolent Society crouched downward but looking upward. She is holding a baby and smiling at something out of frame.

“Every small action can add up and make a big difference. At The Benevolent Society, we acknowledge the country before we start meetings and gatherings. For parcels, we can start adding the name of the Country.” 

“Much of the media we consume can have unconscious biases, which includes only showing issues from one side. It’s important to get other perspectives from a reputable source. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, NITV, Koori Mail and IndigenousX are First Nations produced sources that can provide perspectives that are absent from mainstream media,” he says. 

Racism affects Australians from many cultural backgrounds, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Racism damages lives and livelihoods as well as hurts whole communities.  

Michael notes that “there’s a wealth of research that indicates fear mongering and pessimist messages in campaigns increases negative emotions. Many of the human rights wins in recent years have been based around messaging that is hopeful.” 

A woman who is talking to two male colleagues via sign language. The words Racism. It Stops with Me. is in the bottom left corner while in the bottom right corner the text reads If You Witness It. Speak Up

In the upcoming RAP 2022 – 2024, The Benevolent Society is asking senior leaders to proactively support anti-discrimination campaigns, initiatives or stances against racism including ongoing active and public support for the “Racism. It Stops with Me.” campaign. 

For everyday Australian’s, Michael suggests calling out racism and bigotry when you see it. 

“The more frequently it is called out, the less accepted racism becomes in everyday life. Amnesty International have created a brilliant guide on how to approach this.” 

The Benevolent Society’s updated RAP is scheduled to launch later this year. For more information about how we support and champion Aboriginal and Indigenous Australians, visit our page here