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What’s next? - The road to reconciliation without a Voice to Parliament

In light of the result of the Voice referendum, leading Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) consultant and founder of Nganya, Dixie Crawford explains why RAPs are more vital than ever.

The result of the Voice referendum was disappointing for everyone who believed in change, and the journey to equality for Blak and White Australia being informed by those in touch with our most vulnerable communities. Although this is not the result many had hoped for, First Nations people are nothing but resilient, and we will still work towards equity and equality in Australia.

First Nations Reconciliation Programs that are led and informed by First Nations people and communities are proven to have greater success and results, than those that are informed by policymakers outside the community. These programs are culturally sensitive and actionable, as they have been informed by lived experiences.

Reconciliation Action Plans are a step towards making reparations for those who have been most affected by the colonisation of Australia. Children at school learn about First Nations history as if it is a thing of the past and not something that hundreds of people are still experiencing today. Although we cannot fully mend the hurt caused by misinformed policies enacted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities, we can make sure that our future generations grow up in a country that respects its history and celebrates diversity.

One of the most critical outcomes of the referendum was conversation. Conversations between friends and families who would otherwise never discuss reconciliation, and conversations between businesses and employees about the part they play in achieving an equitable Australia. Each discussion was a chance to educate and understand why we still have a long way to go towards fulfilling the requests outlined in the ‘Uluru: Statement from the Heart’ - and these conversations must not stop.

Your RAP is a map

Put simply, a Reconciliation Action Plan is a strategic document that gives businesses a framework to contribute to the reconciliation movement. RAPs deliver tangible and substantive benefits for First Nations peoples and increase cultural safety in the workplace. The uptake on RAPs in the lead-up to the referendum increased by 39 per cent according to Reconciliation Australia, and

I hope that this number continues to rise as businesses recognise that they can influence and catalyse social change.

The RAP framework is designed to allow businesses to continue growing and extending their First Nation’s reconciliation. Starting at ‘Reflect’, which asks organisations to explore their biases and develop a vision for their future plan, the final stage of a RAP is ‘Elevate’, where businesses actively champion initiatives to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and create societal change.

RAPs are meaningful and impactful when all parties involved understand the purpose, vision and relevance of the plan. When implementing your RAP, assigning roles and responsibilities to individuals creates ownership and greater investment in the overall strategy. It is also important to maintain a connection to your RAP through ongoing experiences and workshops which will enrich your company’s knowledge and connection with First Nations histories, cultures and communities. It is important to recognise that a RAP is not only an investment for your business, but an investment in the welfare of First Nations Australians.

Change can be uncomfortable, but if we can grasp each opportunity with both hands and believe that change must be made and that you can do it, we can ensure that the change we make is a positive one and ensures that future generations will thrive.