Earlier this year, we launched our Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), a collaborative framework with Reconciliation Australia that looks at how we, as an organisation, can work towards facilitating relationships, respect and trust with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Essentially, how we can do our part in reconciliation.
You can read more about our Reflect RAP here.
Speaking to members of our RAP Working Group (RWG) illuminated some of the inner workings of the process. It also answered questions about how we can foster an internal and external culture that considers reconciliation at every turn of the work we do.
The role of the RAP Working Group (RWG)
Reconciliation is a journey, with myriad moving parts to consider, discover, unlearn and implement.
Our Working Group is made up of representatives from different departments of the organisation. The core members have changed over time, bringing in different levels of RAP experience, interest and insight.
“The working group is there in part to be a checkpoint of what the original vision set out to do,” says Taryn Marks, Head of First Nations Communication and Engagement. “Like any plan, you need to be able to keep accountability and manage timelines. We also need to check in with people to ensure they understand what they're supposed to be doing, and that everybody has the same understanding of what the overarching goal is.”
Recognising that we’re an organisation of many different backgrounds and cultures, our RWG structure has allowed each member to look at reconciliation in the context of their teams and map out how we can turn our plan into actionable steps across the agency.
Leaning into the learnings
At every level of engagement, it’s been a process of learning. This is an important way we’re approaching reconciliation, echoing the sentiment of ‘the journey, not the destination.’
“We have to lean into it,” says Rune Pedersen, Head of Localisation at Think HQ CultureVerse. “We also need to understand that we might say or do something wrong, but that’s part of investigating things, and we have to try.”
The Reflect RAP has taught us that meaningful change must be driven by two things: authentic relationships and a high level of cultural responsiveness, which are the keys to achieving the best outcomes in our creative work – be it in recruitment, PR, or handling cultural and intellectual properties.
The process in practice
Each Reflect RAP is led by four primary pillars:
- Relationships – Looking at community connections we have and ones we can make
- Respect – Building a culture of understanding
- Opportunities – Looking at initiatives we can put in place
- Governance – Creating frameworks to oversee the process and ensure accountability.
As our People & Capability Manager Sean Temby puts it, “It's about providing space for people to ask questions that might be uncomfortable and then letting them know where exactly those questions can be asked, and where there are resources to do the self-education. Thus, we remove the shame around not knowing what you think you need to know to be part of the RAP.”
One of the main goals of the Reflect RAP is deciding on your vision for reconciliation and exploring your sphere of influence.
“A question we continually ask is how we can build relationships with the community in a more meaningful way to pursue reconciliation, while also acknowledging their histories, culture, different communities and the diversity within the community,” says Andy Lima, Group Head of Creative, Production and Digital.
Our RAP work thus far has looked into engaging First Nations creatives, storytellers and artists. For example, we recently held an internal guest discussion session with Solid Lines, a First Nations-led illustration agency, and we hired First Nations artists to develop elements for our upcoming rebrand. Next up, we have plans to establish a talent incubator programme for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives.
We are also in the process of reviewing our internal policies and procedures through the lens of anti-discrimination and anti-racism.
More than ticking a box
“A large part of the process is holding a mirror to oneself and asking, ‘is this genuine?’” Sean says.
Reconciliation requires both a shift in the culture and a willingness to challenge pre-established conventions that do disservice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“It can't just be during NAIDOC Week or Reconciliation Week, it's got to be a dialogue that happens constantly throughout the organisation and beyond,” says Nickie Flambouras, Account Director at Think HQ CultureVerse.
“The conversation is incredibly nuanced,” adds Blake Mason, Group Account Director of PR and Events. “As the RWG, we consider how we can have that additional lens of intersectionality, while also looking at the technical realities like budgets and ensuring we’re funding engagements accordingly.”
A common thread shared by all our RWG members is how the work must be a collective and collaborative effort.
“It's not one person's responsibility to take on the reconciliation journey,” says Nickie. “The movement should be owned by the whole agency, and everybody has a part to play in that.”
“My experience is going to be very different to the next person, so I think it helps to shift the load,” Taryn agrees. “The best RAPs that I've seen are the ones that try to keep it simple and really honest about their own contribution. It may be small and it may be large, but it's about honesty and actually being able to effectively resource our commitments.”
What comes next?
As we see it, the journey towards reconciliation is about being curious, while challenging preconceptions, stepping into discomfort and working together.
Lauren Brown, Senior Account Manager of PR and Events, sums it up nicely: “Ultimately, in alignment with our values, it's about having an earnest and honest look at what we are currently doing and where the opportunities lie to improve that.”
Following recent approval from Reconciliation Australia, we will continue furthering our agency-wide understanding of reconciliation, developing community relationships, and delivering programs that support the completion of the Reflect stage, before beginning the development of our next RAP.