(L-R) Community Relations Manager, Australia Post Julie Michaelson, National Indigenous Manager, Australia Post Chris Heelan and Program Director of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation Tina Raye at the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and Pen Pal Club launch in February this year. $1 from the sale of every Pen Pal Club book will be donated to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation up to a maximum donation of $20,000.
For National Reconciliation Week, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and Australia Post share the value of their Reconciliation Action Plans and what “In This Together” means to their respective organisations.
In 2020, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) formed a three year partnership with Australia Post to deliver almost 300,000 culturally appropriate books to remote Indigenous communities across Australia and raise awareness and support for Indigenous Literacy.
Nicky Tracey, Australia Post’s Head of Community, saw the national partnership with ILF as a brilliant opportunity to align Australia Post’s ongoing commitment to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with its focus on supporting literacy.
“Our partnership with ILF allows us to deepen our commitment to reconciliation while fulfilling our core purpose of connecting people to opportunity,” says Nicky.
Australia Post is a self-funded government enterprise with more local connections than any business in Australia. We recently sat down with Australia Post’s National Indigenous Manager Chris Heelan to chat about our partnership and how it fits within reconciliation, just in time for National Reconciliation Week.
“ILF’s strong focus on relationships and supporting local communities was a key area of appeal for Australia Post when we first began to form this partnership,” says Chris. “Their commitment to improving literacy for Indigenous peoples, and particularly Indigenous youth aligned closely with our values, and was an opportunity to strengthen our work on the ground.”
The partnership inspired a discussion about the value and impact of an organisation’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).
ILF, with a team of 14 employees is currently reviewing the second iteration of their RAP, adopting the ‘Innovate’ framework to focus on strengthening relationships, engaging staff, and developing new strategies to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Australia Post, with a national employee base of over 35,000, announced its first RAP in 2011, and is currently working on its fourth RAP, using the ‘Stretch’ framework to implement longer-term strategies and work towards measurable targets and goals. Chris views Australia Post’s RAP as part of the enterprise’s commitment to reconciliation.
“For Australia Post, reconciliation is about awareness and acknowledgement,” says Chris. “Australia Post proudly acknowledges all traditional custodians across the country. We have a variety of events and programs that recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in different ways - whether it’s through our community partnerships, employment programs, or a whole array of different initiatives. Having a RAP is a major part of helping that move towards reconciliation.”
At the end of last year, the ILF’s Reconciliation Action Plan committee started the process of updating their RAP, due for launch in 2020. The team collectively researched other organisations’ RAPs, key themes of reconciliation, and reflected on outcomes of the previous RAP. There were also a number of discussions to share what reconciliation meant to each of them as individuals as well as engagement with other staff. ILF Executive Director, Karen Williams, said the process was inclusive and thorough.
“This is an incredibly important part of our business. It is the Foundation’s compass to guide our actions, communications and our hearts,” says Karen.
According to Chris, the benefit of having a RAP is enormous.
“Having a RAP gives direction and clarity on what you want to focus on as an organisation. By looking at where we’ve been and what we’ve delivered, the RAP allows us to measure ourselves, and facilitate an honest conversation around where we can improve going forward. And that’s an important part of reconciliation – being open and honest about what you’ve done and where you want to go.”
Chris also shared some insights on how organisations can approach their RAP.
“Tailoring a RAP to your organisation is what makes a RAP so important and empowering,” says Chris.
Here are his three key tips:
- Don’t think you’re alone. Organisations have RAPs at different levels, and there’s incredible diversity in sizes and industries. Go out and speak to different organisations – in and out of your industry, and find out how they’ve benefited, how they engage their workforce, and lessons they’ve learnt along the way.
- Be clear in what you want to achieve. My advice is less is better. Identify those deliverable actions where you believe that the organisation can achieve, and it’s going to make the impact and the progress you want as an organisation.
- Don’t forget the people. Your RAP needs the support of your employees. Your RAP is for your workforce, your customers and your community, you need their understanding and support to realise your vision.
The theme of this year’s National Reconciliation Week, In This Together, also struck a chord with both organisations.
“The theme resonates very strongly with what’s happening in the wider community, and it allows many different conversations,” says Chris. “This year, we’re harnessing the power and voice of our people, and talking about what reconciliation is to Australia Post – what we’ve done, what we’re exceptionally proud of, and what we can do moving into the future - what more we can collectively sign up to do. And importantly, we will continue to celebrate National Reconciliation Week as we would any other year, and I would encourage all Australians to do the same.”
For Karen, there is no better time to continue journeying towards reconciliation.
“The theme ‘In This Together’ clearly says that every one of us has a role to play when it comes to reconciliation,” says Karen, “Our Foundation is committed to reconciliation, through our advocacy and engagement with remote Indigenous communities. We are committed to continuing to strive for a future of consideration, equity and understanding, fully respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures. We strongly advocate for all Australians and organisations to take this week to reflect, begin and continue your own journeys towards reconciliation.”
If you’ve been thinking about implementing a RAP at your organisation, there is no better time to get started than following this year’s National Reconciliation Week. Head to Reconciliation Australia to start your reconciliation journey.
Check out Australia Post’s current RAP here.