Our brief shared history coincides with a period in Australia riven with injustices against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have showed extraordinary resilience and maintained and honoured their cultures and traditions, the economic, health and social challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples remain a national shame. The gap in life expectancy between Australia’s First Peoples and members of the broader community is a stark example.
Australian Unity is determined to play its part in the reconciliation process, and is proud to present its first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). It comes at an important moment in the history of our organisation. In 2016, the NSW government transferred its entire home care operations, Home Care NSW, to Australian Unity. These operations include Aboriginal Home Care, a specialised culturally-appropriate provider of in-home support for around 3,000 First Australians, staffed by around 350 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander staff.
Our expansion into the provision of trustee services also sees us playing a role in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia to manage their native title trusts.
Our intention is to build on these business areas as a base for shared understanding and connection between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Australian Unity more generally, in order to create practical support for reconciliation.
We are grateful for the support and guidance provided by our staff, including our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, on the development of this RAP.
The Australian Unity RAP was developed by a working group made up of 22 employees from all parts of the company’s operations, five of whom are Aboriginal people. Each member of the Working Group brought together a diverse range of experience with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.
The decision to formally develop and launch the RAP was announced by the Group Managing Director to all staff during National Reconciliation Week in 2016.
The process of developing the Reconciliation Action Plan provided an opportunity to reflect on the past, and consider actions to lead us into the future as a company. It was particularly important to acknowledge that one of our founding organisations, the Australian Natives’ Association, played a significant role in the establishment of a national day, on 26 January, to celebrate what at the time it called the “founding” of Australia. The ANA was also a driving force behind the movement for creating a Federation of Australia. Prominent members of the association were involved in the original drafting of the constitution.
These two examples highlight areas of particular attention in our RAP. We believe it is time for a national conversation about changing the date of Australia Day to one that more appropriately acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the nature of their connection with the land and waters of this country.
We also believe that full respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples requires the removal of race discrimination provisions in the federal constitution and the explicit recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in that official document.
Implementation of the RAP will be led by the RAP Working Group but will be a whole of company effort.
It will require commitment, expertise, and most importantly, passion to create a more reconciled nation for all Australians.
Find out more about our commitment here