5 ways to be an ally to Indigenous employees on Australia Day


Understanding First Nations perspectives and building a Reconciliation Action Plan are two ways your organisation could demonstrate allyship to Indigenous employees.

Australia Day can be challenging for many in the Indigenous community, and some employers might be looking for ways to show their support.

Of course, allyship towards Indigenous employees needs to extend beyond a single day, but this is a good time to think about some of the long-term support mechanisms you could put in place to create a more inclusive environment for Indigenous employees.

Aunty Munya Andrews, an Aboriginal Elder of the Bardi people in Western Australia, recently discussed practical actions that organisations can take to demonstrate allyship, during an Evolve Communities webinar.

Aunty Munya spoke alongside Carla Rogers – both are co-directors of Evolve Communities, an organisation that provides reconciliation, allyship and cultural awareness training about Indigenous Australia to non-Indigenous Australians – on how organisations can support Indigenous employees and communities beyond Survival Day.

1. Learn about Traditional Owners

Step one involves doing your research and becoming immersed in the rich history and stories of Indigenous Australia.

If you’re looking to be an ally to First Nations Australians, it’s essential to learn whose country you’re working on, and learn a basic greeting in their local language, says Aunty Munya. This kind of information could be circulated across the organisation.

“I always ask people, do you know of any Indigenous names for Australia?” says Aunty Munya.

Carla, who is not Indigenous, says it originally hadn’t occurred to her that Australia might have been named prior to colonisation. She says learning these names, and how to pronounce them correctly, might be a good starting point for reflection by non-Indigenous allies.

2. Understand First Nations perspectives

Understanding the breadth of First Nations history compared to the relatively recent colonial presence in Australia is important when considering how to respond to Australia Day celebrations.

“Some Aboriginal people do celebrate Australia Day and that’s great,” says Aunty Munya. “That’s their choice. But we mustn’t forget that for a lot of people, it is considered an invasion day.”

“For many Australians, 26 January can’t be seen as anything other than a day of mourning,” she says

“I’m all for having a day of celebration of some kind for all of us,” says Carla. “But we need to reflect much more deeply on what it is we’re celebrating, and when we’re going to do that.”

3. Consider alternatives

Dates such as 1 January are proposed as alternatives to 26 January, and alternative names, such as Survival Day, are used by Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike.

Let’s say a company decides to do something different on Australia Day and takes a stand against celebrating on 26 January. What possible alternatives exist?

At an organisational level, this could mean providing an allowance for employees to take leave on a different day during the year. For example, floating public holidays allow employees to swap out a day that doesn’t suit them for one that does.

The process is the same as any other time an employee approaches their manager for leave approval. They put in the request and the change is then recorded on the employee’s timesheet so they can be paid correctly.

4. Share with colleagues and collaborate

Changing attitudes requires cooperation and communication. For truly effective action, this change needs to start at the top.

For non-Indigenous employees, Carla recommends elevating Indigenous voices and perspectives in the workplace, doing your homework, and owning and learning from mistakes, such as unintentionally saying something offensive.

At an organisational level, businesses have an opportunity to foster an environment where Indigenous issues are at the forefront of employees’ minds. Making an Acknowledgement of Country at the start of company meetings and events, for example, is a simple preliminary step towards greater recognition of Indigenous Australia within an organisation.

Aunty Munya also suggests that businesses work with Indigenous organisations, where possible. This can be an effective way of supporting Indigenous organisations, furthering your own knowledge of Indigenous issues and cultural expressions, and co-creating solutions to a problem together.

This guidance document provided by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment offers recommendations for organisations looking to partner with Indigenous communities

5. Build a Reconciliation Action Plan

Developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is a great way for organisations to create long-term change by including reconciliation initiatives as part of their strategic planning. 

There are different RAP types for organisations at different stages of the reconciliation journey. The Reflect level, for example, is for organisations that are newer to reconciliation, while the Innovate level is for organisations looking to take their efforts towards reconciliation a step further.

You can read HRM’s guide to creating a RAP here.

For day-to-day issues, you can read through Evolve Communities’ R3 Culture Model, which is designed to help when dealing with conflict and managing relationships in the workplace. The model provides three clear actions when presented with conflict: reflect on how the situation came to be, relate to where the other person is coming from and reconcile by cooperating with the other person towards a solution.

Tools like these provide an established framework for companies to follow, helping businesses to be an ally to Indigenous employees not only on 26 January but year-round.


Want to share some of the things your organisation is doing to support Indigenous employees? AHRI members can joined the AHRI LinkedIn Lounge to start the conversation or seek out advice from their HR peers.


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12 Comments
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Fred
Fred
4 months ago

What a bunch of PC crap. Absolutely a disgusting and divisive article pretending to be “inclusive” while just spewing division.

Do better.

Margaret Carter
Margaret Carter
4 months ago

I love this article. My son in law is aboriginal and as I result I have had to re look at Australia Day. I love the suggestions and the sentiment. Thank you.

Rebecca Peters
Rebecca Peters
4 months ago

We need to be more inclusive of everyone in the workplace …but renaming Australia Day to ‘Survival Day’ is just going to alienate a lot of people we are trying to bring along on the journey.

NColeman
NColeman
4 months ago

This is an offensive article to call Australia Day “Survival Day”. When did AHRI get so low and become a political organisation? You should retract this article and discipline the editor who accepted and promoted it. This could have been a positive inclusive article, but you went too far.

David Moss
David Moss
4 months ago

This is one of the most racist articles I have ever seen i’m HRM. Image. Applying ‘Iser’s Barbecue Test’ let’s flip it over and see if it is cooked on both sides. Imagine an article that attacked Naidoc week as offensive to 4% of the population and proposing it was dropped from the calendar. Then going on with a list of alternatives and suggestions about how to increase empathy for the people attacking a significant week on the indigenous calendar. Such an article would rightly be denounced as racist and it would have no place in a human resource management… Read more »

1 2 3
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5 ways to be an ally to Indigenous employees on Australia Day


Understanding First Nations perspectives and building a Reconciliation Action Plan are two ways your organisation could demonstrate allyship to Indigenous employees.

Australia Day can be challenging for many in the Indigenous community, and some employers might be looking for ways to show their support.

Of course, allyship towards Indigenous employees needs to extend beyond a single day, but this is a good time to think about some of the long-term support mechanisms you could put in place to create a more inclusive environment for Indigenous employees.

Aunty Munya Andrews, an Aboriginal Elder of the Bardi people in Western Australia, recently discussed practical actions that organisations can take to demonstrate allyship, during an Evolve Communities webinar.

Aunty Munya spoke alongside Carla Rogers – both are co-directors of Evolve Communities, an organisation that provides reconciliation, allyship and cultural awareness training about Indigenous Australia to non-Indigenous Australians – on how organisations can support Indigenous employees and communities beyond Survival Day.

1. Learn about Traditional Owners

Step one involves doing your research and becoming immersed in the rich history and stories of Indigenous Australia.

If you’re looking to be an ally to First Nations Australians, it’s essential to learn whose country you’re working on, and learn a basic greeting in their local language, says Aunty Munya. This kind of information could be circulated across the organisation.

“I always ask people, do you know of any Indigenous names for Australia?” says Aunty Munya.

Carla, who is not Indigenous, says it originally hadn’t occurred to her that Australia might have been named prior to colonisation. She says learning these names, and how to pronounce them correctly, might be a good starting point for reflection by non-Indigenous allies.

2. Understand First Nations perspectives

Understanding the breadth of First Nations history compared to the relatively recent colonial presence in Australia is important when considering how to respond to Australia Day celebrations.

“Some Aboriginal people do celebrate Australia Day and that’s great,” says Aunty Munya. “That’s their choice. But we mustn’t forget that for a lot of people, it is considered an invasion day.”

“For many Australians, 26 January can’t be seen as anything other than a day of mourning,” she says

“I’m all for having a day of celebration of some kind for all of us,” says Carla. “But we need to reflect much more deeply on what it is we’re celebrating, and when we’re going to do that.”

3. Consider alternatives

Dates such as 1 January are proposed as alternatives to 26 January, and alternative names, such as Survival Day, are used by Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike.

Let’s say a company decides to do something different on Australia Day and takes a stand against celebrating on 26 January. What possible alternatives exist?

At an organisational level, this could mean providing an allowance for employees to take leave on a different day during the year. For example, floating public holidays allow employees to swap out a day that doesn’t suit them for one that does.

The process is the same as any other time an employee approaches their manager for leave approval. They put in the request and the change is then recorded on the employee’s timesheet so they can be paid correctly.

4. Share with colleagues and collaborate

Changing attitudes requires cooperation and communication. For truly effective action, this change needs to start at the top.

For non-Indigenous employees, Carla recommends elevating Indigenous voices and perspectives in the workplace, doing your homework, and owning and learning from mistakes, such as unintentionally saying something offensive.

At an organisational level, businesses have an opportunity to foster an environment where Indigenous issues are at the forefront of employees’ minds. Making an Acknowledgement of Country at the start of company meetings and events, for example, is a simple preliminary step towards greater recognition of Indigenous Australia within an organisation.

Aunty Munya also suggests that businesses work with Indigenous organisations, where possible. This can be an effective way of supporting Indigenous organisations, furthering your own knowledge of Indigenous issues and cultural expressions, and co-creating solutions to a problem together.

This guidance document provided by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment offers recommendations for organisations looking to partner with Indigenous communities

5. Build a Reconciliation Action Plan

Developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is a great way for organisations to create long-term change by including reconciliation initiatives as part of their strategic planning. 

There are different RAP types for organisations at different stages of the reconciliation journey. The Reflect level, for example, is for organisations that are newer to reconciliation, while the Innovate level is for organisations looking to take their efforts towards reconciliation a step further.

You can read HRM’s guide to creating a RAP here.

For day-to-day issues, you can read through Evolve Communities’ R3 Culture Model, which is designed to help when dealing with conflict and managing relationships in the workplace. The model provides three clear actions when presented with conflict: reflect on how the situation came to be, relate to where the other person is coming from and reconcile by cooperating with the other person towards a solution.

Tools like these provide an established framework for companies to follow, helping businesses to be an ally to Indigenous employees not only on 26 January but year-round.


Want to share some of the things your organisation is doing to support Indigenous employees? AHRI members can joined the AHRI LinkedIn Lounge to start the conversation or seek out advice from their HR peers.


guest
12 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Fred
Fred
4 months ago

What a bunch of PC crap. Absolutely a disgusting and divisive article pretending to be “inclusive” while just spewing division.

Do better.

Margaret Carter
Margaret Carter
4 months ago

I love this article. My son in law is aboriginal and as I result I have had to re look at Australia Day. I love the suggestions and the sentiment. Thank you.

Rebecca Peters
Rebecca Peters
4 months ago

We need to be more inclusive of everyone in the workplace …but renaming Australia Day to ‘Survival Day’ is just going to alienate a lot of people we are trying to bring along on the journey.

NColeman
NColeman
4 months ago

This is an offensive article to call Australia Day “Survival Day”. When did AHRI get so low and become a political organisation? You should retract this article and discipline the editor who accepted and promoted it. This could have been a positive inclusive article, but you went too far.

David Moss
David Moss
4 months ago

This is one of the most racist articles I have ever seen i’m HRM. Image. Applying ‘Iser’s Barbecue Test’ let’s flip it over and see if it is cooked on both sides. Imagine an article that attacked Naidoc week as offensive to 4% of the population and proposing it was dropped from the calendar. Then going on with a list of alternatives and suggestions about how to increase empathy for the people attacking a significant week on the indigenous calendar. Such an article would rightly be denounced as racist and it would have no place in a human resource management… Read more »

1 2 3
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