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Friday June 9, 2023

Taking action on reconciliation

  • Taking action on reconciliation image

In commemoration of Reconciliation Week, our recent Work with Purpose guest Brendan Moyle, Kamilaroi and Gamilaraay man and executive branch manager of the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs in the ACT Government, shares some practical tips on how Australians can move from good intentions to meaningful action to achieve reconciliation.

While Australia has made significant progress in its reconciliation journey, there is still much to be done to embrace diversity and commit to fundamental change.

In our most recent Work with Purpose episode, Brendan Moyle, executive branch manager of the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs at the ACT Government, emphasises how change naturally follows when people value it.

“When you go to New Zealand, you go to Wellington, you go to at Auckland, Maori culture is embedded everywhere you go. We are starting to see a surge of growth of that now in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, which is fantastic. But it’s one step,” he says.

Be genuine

For Brendan, an acknowledgment of country forms part of a crucial first step towards reconciliation. But it needs to come from the heart, sincerely recognising the ancestral connection of First Nations people.

“It has to be a genuine commitment to acknowledging county,” Brendan says.

“It’s critically important as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. When you hear it, you feel a sense of pride and connection. “

Bridge the gap between words and actions

Brendan recognised the great work that has already been done to achieve reconciliation and the strong national conversation about it. However, the ongoing disparity and systemic racism that First Nations peoples still experience prove that there’s still more to be done.

“Words and documents do mean a lot, but they can easily be cast aside. Actions are what’s truly valuable,” he says.

“We need to move beyond the structural elements in terms of reconciliation action plans to actually move to something that’s much more tangible.”

“When we’re still in this day and age having conversations about systemic racism [and] concerns about the discrimination that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still face, even though we are seeing monumental shift over the last 10 to 15 years, has reconciliation actually worked to deliver outcomes on those?”

He adds that the principle of reconciliation is not only about bringing people together but the benefit of all people.

“By working together, we can celebrate so much. But it needs to go beyond just tasks and performance indicators. It needs to go to the heart and soul of what reconciliation actually is.”

Embrace diversity in thinking

Further on encouraging action, Brendan challenges institutions on their commitment to embracing diversity. For instance, when it comes to hiring First Nations staff, he asks: “Is diversity a statistic or is it diversity of thinking that you want?”

“How do we actually embrace diversity? Not just diversity in gender or age or cultural dynamics, but it’s fundamentally diversity in thought. It’s the diversity of lived experience that brings that to the forefront.”

He emphasises the importance of diverse thinking by involving people from communities to guide policies and programs that create an impact on the communities.

“If you want to really reconcile and make a difference in the lives of some of our most vulnerable people, then you need to be able to reform and reshape our policies and programs to be able to deliver on that. And sometimes the best people that have insight into that, are the people that come from those communities.”

Be an ally

According to Brendan, First Nations people can’t be the only ones fighting for change. Instead, change requires the help of allies.

Everyone has a sphere of influence – whether in our jobs, at home, or our social circles – and the way we use that influence to talk about reconciliation and shift behaviours matter most.

“If we truly value and recognise the value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and peoples, then by nature everywhere we go, we have those conversations.”

Brendan challenges everyone to “use your sphere of influence to challenge behaviours, get to know people as people but also to call out and have the courage, not in an adversarial way. You catch more bees with honey than you do vinegar.”

He concludes by calling everyone to work together because First Nations peoples can’t make change alone.

“[As] I said, we’re three per cent of the population. We can’t change the legislation; we can’t change the outcomes of voting. We can’t do those things. But if we work together as an inclusive society that truly values, appreciates, and loves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, then anything’s possible.”

People

  • Brendan Moyle image
    Brendan Moyle

    Executive Branch Manager
    Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs
    ACT Government

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