Awareness and recognition in Australia of Indigenous cultures and the rich history of First Peoples’ civilisation has grown considerably in the last 20 years, spurred by the establishment of Reconciliation Australia in 2001. Importantly, the value placed on Indigenous culture has extended to non-Indigenous Australians, across governments, the non-profit sector, and – importantly – businesses.
Businesses play a crucial role in the reconciliation journey, not just for their ability to create employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers, but by pushing the needle on cultural change through awareness raising and leadership. Reconciliation has emerged as a key issue on the Australian corporate radar, and businesses are increasingly, formalising their commitments to Indigenous Australians through Reconciliation Action Plans (RAP).
In March 2019, BGIS was delighted to launch its second Innovate RAP, which establishes a framework of practical actions that will strengthen relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and create the social and economic conditions in which they can prosper and thrive.
“The development of a RAP is critical for organisations looking to ensure a workplace that understands, values and respects the history and culture of Indigenous Australians, as well as the contributions they have made and continue to make,” said Rikki Cooper, Senior Recruitment Consultant and Indigenous Liaison Mentor, who co-chairs BGIS’ RAP Working Group along with Brad Robbins, Managing Director – Operations, Defence and FMO. “Diversity and inclusion have always been a core tenet for BGIS, with Indigenous engagement specifically identified as a key focus area. Our RAP is about taking that next step and turning good intentions into meaningful action, by opening up opportunities and creating innovative ways for engagement.”
As the Indigenous Liaison Mentor – through which she is the first point of contact for all Indigenous enquiries across BGIS’ Australian business – Rikki was well-placed to join the RAP Working Group in 2016. “I felt I had a unique background that would assist BGIS in its Indigenous engagement journey,” explained Rikki, a proud Nari-Nari woman whose family hail from the western Riverina region of south western New South Wales. “As an organisation with a large national footprint, it’s important that we are giving back to the land and communities in which we operate, especially remote and rural Indigenous communities.”
BGIS’ Innovate RAP includes meaningful deliverables and targets, including increased spend with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suppliers, achieving three per cent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff representation across all business functions, and a commitment to partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders to review and implement an Indigenous Engagement Plan. While the launch of BGIS’ Innovate RAP was the culmination of many months of hard work, it was preceded by several other crucial initiatives spearheaded by the RAP Working Group.
“We’ve rolled out cultural awareness training to all our people, established an Acknowledgment of Country protocol, and partnered with CareerTrackers and the NRL School to Work program to provide internship and employment opportunities for Indigenous youth,” said Brad. “In 2020, we were also thrilled to officially partner with the Clontarf Foundation, having supported them previously in Western Australia through several Corporate Social Responsibility events and initiatives. Moving forward, BGIS will be supporting the Foundation’s Clontarf Academies in Perth and Sydney, to assist in the education and employment of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.”
While BGIS’ RAP Working Group have achieved several important milestones and have much to celebrate, there is still work to be done. “As for our next steps, I would like to see Indigenous growth prioritised for every department and account team at BGIS, with specific KPIs that must be reached,” said Rikki. “I believe we have created a great foundation that we can only build upon, and I’m looking forward to seeing our Indigenous team grow.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing us meet and exceed our RAP targets, potentially before the due dates,” said Brad. “There’s many ways we can go about this, including full embracement of Indigenous engagement in every one of our client accounts, increasing our Indigenous apprentices, and ensuring that the annual Bennelong Cup – an NRL School to Work sporting event that BGIS has sponsored for two consecutive years – grows year-on-year to attract and engage Indigenous youths.”
Every organisation in Australia bares the responsibility to tackle reconciliation, and to work together to close the gap experienced by our First Australians. “Reconciliation is an issue that has been important for many years, and it’s even more important now as a community and business issue,” explained Rikki. “Whether it’s through a RAP or an Indigenous Engagement Plan, it’s essential for every organisation to make an appropriate contribution to reconciliation so we can achieve a more just, equitable and productive Australia.”