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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Magazine Issue 51
With strong leadership from our CEO Kaye Colmer, the staff embarked on a journey. We began by watching Professor Michael McDaniel speaking at the Reconciliation Action Plan launch of a Sydney Law Firm. We committed staff meetings, where our focus is on professional learning, to understanding more about Aboriginal history and culture. We decided early on that we wanted to create our own Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) which would provide us with a way of working together in a cohesive, thoughtful and connected way. We gathered a passionate group of people which included some families (Indigenous and non-Indigenous), staff and the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community, and together we used the Reconciliation Australia format to guide our direction. In this planning we wanted to make sure we included changes across our entire organisation and, in order to do this, we needed to be specific and our goals achievable. During this two year development the belief that good intentions need to be turned into real actions was a strong motivation for all. The RAP format guided our thinking and helped us create action in the areas of relationships, respect, opportunities and how we would track and report on our progress. It also ensured we articulated our vision for, and commitment to, reconciliation. This provided a rich opportunity for discussions, decisions and thinking together about how best we could make a difference in our work. Within our RAP we committed to providing cultural awareness training for staff. We organised a two day training that was comprehensive, thought provoking and, at times, highly confronting. The process was pivotal to staff having an understanding of white privilege, different forms of racism, Aboriginal history, the weaving between cultures that Aboriginal people are required to do, and understanding our own beliefs, attitudes and our view of history. We also used the cultural audit tool from the Toolkit for Indigenous Service Provision (FaHCSIA, 2010) as a self assessment and reflection tool for all staff to reflect on their own knowledge of Aboriginal culture, history, Indigenous organisations and the way they work with Indigenous families. These audits then guided our RAP committee in the planning of professional learning opportunities for all staff. After we drafted our RAP, we submitted it to Reconciliation Australia for feedback and guidance, made some minor changes and then circulated it within our organisation and to families. We engaged the services of graphic designer Karen Briggs, an Aboriginal woman from Yorta Yorta country, to do a design that encapsulated our organisation and beliefs. Karen provided a design that the children could relate to, and were interested in, and that also represented Gowrie SA and the different aspects of our work within the sector. It also reflected the significant Kaurna totems and connection to country. We were able to do some consultation with our local Elders about the design and also with the preschool children in our service. The children were immediately drawn to different aspects of the design, some to the animals and some to the symbols and patterns. On October 21st 2012 Gowrie SA officially launched our Reconciliation Action Plan. The launch was held at the beautiful Tainmundilla Park (Botanic Park) in Adelaide with about 70 families from the children's program attending, along with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families from across Adelaide and interstate. This launch was a real celebration of the work that had already started and a commitment to future work. We had Aboriginal performers and businesses represented. We were fortunate to have our Elders, Auntie Josie Agius and Uncle Lewis O'Brien, attend our launch and provide a Welcome to Country. Over the last two years we have worked on creating welcoming and culturally safe environments for our Aboriginal families and staff. We have signed the Australian Employment Covenant where we have committed to employing 4 Aboriginal staff members (which we have achieved), with the staff employed across different parts of our organisation. We have started developing relationships with many other Aboriginal organisations and networks so that we can work together to support our Aboriginal families. We have focused on ensuring we are aware of, and observe, cultural protocols, and we have developed relationships with our local Elders and engaged them in consultation opportunities. We are excited that we can see changes in every level of our organisation from how educators purchase resources, to policy development, to hosting Indigenous students and ensuring that issues of equity are woven into our training programs. In enacting our RAP we believe that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families are supported through our education and learning programs in our service, and that the lives of our staff and families are enriched by developing a deeper understanding, knowledge and connection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Over the last two years we have been committed to our current RAP and we are in the process now of evaluating our progress and deciding on our strategic directions for the next two years. We know we have learnt a great deal, but still have much to learn and contribute to Reconciliation. We hold this responsibility as a real priority, not just for the current children, families and staff of our organisation, but also for the future. We know that small steps can make a big difference, and it just requires passionate people to drive the change. It's the journey that counts, and we are proud to be part of it. References: Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (2010), Toolkit for Indigenous Service Provision. <http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/our-responsibiities/indigenous- australians/prorgams-services/recognition-respect/toolkit-for-in- digenous-service provision> For more information on developing a RAP plan or to view Gowrie SA's plan: Reconciliation Australia <http:// www.reconciliation.org.au> REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • WINTER 2013 - ISSUE 51
Reflections Magazine Issue 52