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Reconciliation Action Plan reflections

July 24, 2017 / Loren Days

I was brought on board as the Senior Policy Advisor for Intersectionality at Our Watch in March 2016. One of the aims of my role is to facilitate a cultural shift within the organisation by supporting staff to take an intersectional approach to their work.

Our recently created Intersectional Strategy provides overarching direction for this. Our work to develop the organisation’s first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) has been a parallel and related process. While understanding that a Reconciliation Action Plan is just one way for organisations to engage with these issues, we decided that as a young organisation, it was an appropriate first step, and would provide a solid foundation from which we could build over time.

In recognition of the differential impact of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, Our Watch is also developing a dedicated prevention resource. So, it is timely that the organisation and staff begin a reconciliation journey both professionally and personally.

In our initial workshops for the RAP the staff identified priorities and they were quite eager to take on a number of ambitious actions. However we quickly realised that to be effective, we needed to take some basic steps first. Reconciliation Australia also encouraged us to start with a ‘Reflect’ RAP that has required us to focus initially on our internal practices. The benefit of this internal focus is that we are working towards a long term goal of creating a culturally safe environment, by first building our own cultural awareness and cultural competency. This has involved challenging staff to acknowledge and confront what they know and don’t know, and encouraging a proactive approach, both individually and collectively, to filling those gaps in our knowledge and understanding. As a group we worked hard to workshop our vision for reconciliation in the context of our work.

The vision we adopted is:

“​Our Watch shares Reconciliation Australia’s vision of a reconciled, just and equitable Australia: an Australia where the voices, experiences and ideas of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are central, and where violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children is a thing of the past.”

The RAP articulates the role of Our Watch in the achievement of this vision – one that involves working in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to prevent violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children. As an organisation we recognise and acknowledge that this work cannot be separated from broader efforts to address the racism, dispossession and intergenerational trauma that are the legacy of colonisation. We understand that ultimately, we are all, as Australians, products of that legacy, and that the responsibility for the active effort of reconciliation lies with each of us. Our staff are proud to be acknowledging and adopting this responsibility.

While we are still young in this journey and have a long way to go, I have watched our organisation advance its cultural competency rapidly in a short amount of time. It is my observation that a genuine interest and openness to engage with these issues across the organisation has helped make this possible. A group of staff recently organised our first National Reconciliation Week morning tea, many participated in various NAIDOC week events, and most were able to attend a full day’s cultural awareness training at the Koorie Heritage Trust. Even though these are firsts for our young organisation, the level of engagement has been enthusiastic and reportedly rewarding for all those who have attended. These experiences have allowed for personal and professional reflections that have generated many productive conversations across the organisation, and are changing the way people approach their work.

Our Watch is now on track to become Reconciliation Australia’s 900th Reconciliation partner. Our ‘Reflect’ RAP will be on our website from August 2017.

Media contact

Laurelle Keough (laurelle.keough@ourwatch.org.au or 0448 844 930)

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000”

To access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children, visit Media Making Change.