Hospo Voice

How we can take action for Reconciliation Week 2021

May 31, 2021

Featured artwork by Jessica Johnson

Reconciliation: more than a word, it takes action

National Reconciliation Week takes place each year between 27 May and 3 June. This year, the theme is More than a word. Reconciliation takes action.

Working with First Nations Communities is at the heart of our values as a union movement. We are dedicated to social justice for all and we believe that we all need to work together to affect change.

So what is National Reconciliation Week and how can we all take action?

What is National Reconciliation Week?

In 1993 (the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples) the week of Prayer for Reconciliation was established, then in 1996 it became National Reconciliation Week. 

In 2001, 300,000 Australians walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge as part of National Reconciliation Week. 

It’s been twenty years since then and although National Reconciliation Week is a high point in the Australia calendar, there’s so much more to do. It’s a time where we all learn more about our shared history and culture and how we can contribute more to reconciliation in Australia. 

The dates of 27th May – 3rd June are no accident – they commemorate two milestones on the journey. On the 27th May 1967, over 90% of Australians voted in a referendum to give the Australian Government the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and recognise them in the Census. 

The 3rd June 1992 was when The Australian High Court delivered the Mabo decision. This led to the legal recognition of First Nations people as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of lands, which paved the way for Native Title.

What does this year’s theme ‘More Than a Word, It Takes Action’ mean?

The goal of Reconciliation is for all members of our country to be treated equally, regardless of where they come from. The way to do this is for more people to ask the hard questions and take action. 

At Hospo Voice, we’re all about taking action. Here are some ways we encourage you to take action this Reconciliation Week 2021 both at home and at work.

Reconciliation is core union business

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We acknowledge the Traditional Owners on whose we live, work and struggle and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging and thank them for their continued custodianship of Country and culture. There can be no justice without First Nations justice.

Call out racism

Unfortunately, racism happens every day. Whether it’s a boss that always tells tasteless jokes or a colleague that talks about customers behind their back, it’s important that we take a stand. So how do we do it?

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, there are three things you should do. Support, record and report. Support the person being targeted. Record the incident if you can. And report it, either to your manager if it’s a customer or a colleague, or to police if you feel someone is in danger. You can also make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission

What about if the person making the comment is your boss? Under the Fair Work Act, it’s illegal to treat someone differently because of their race and you can make a complaint to the Fair Work Commissioner if you think that’s happening. We’ve also written this article about what to do about workplace racism.  

You can also get in touch with us through our Mobilise App and we can help you work out the best course of action.

Acknowledge whose country you’re on

Your first step is to use this Map of Indigenous Australia to find out which area your home or work is on. Your next step is to acknowledge it. You could talk to your employer about including an Acknowledgement of Country on your menu or as you greet customers. 

You could include your Name of Country when posting letters. In NAIDOC week last year, Australia Post updated the addressing guidelines so we can all use Traditional Place names when posting our mail.

These might seem like small actions but are important to remind us about our connection to First Nations people and their Traditional Lands.

Get educated

If you don’t know much about the true history of Australia, it’s time to learn. Watch some Aboriginal media like NITV, read Koori Mail, and find out your local broadcaster through First Nations Media

Watch some Aboriginal Films with the SBS Reconciliation Film Club and read some books by Aboriginal authors including That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott, Singing the Coast by Margaret Somerville and Tony Perkins and Am I Black Enough For You? by Anita Heiss. 

Start a Reconciliation Action Plan at work

Does your venue have a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP)? A RAP contains practical actions to help your workplace contribute to reconciliation. 

If you don’t have one, perhaps it’s time to talk to your employer about writing one. If you have one, read it and find out whether you can join the RAP action group.

Support First Nations businesses and contractors

First Nations people have suffered generations of discrimination, poverty and economic disempowerment. To help make a change, we need to support First Nations economic development. 

One way to do this is consider First nations businesses when looking for contractors, suppliers and products. Supply Nation is a great resource for finding suppliers in your area.  

You can also follow and support First Nations businesses on social media. There’s a campaign called #wearitblakwednesday, where you can share something you’ve bought from businesses like @TradingBlak.

Share your stance on Reconciliation

Join the conversation on social media and use our Facebook frame to show your family and friends where you stand. 

If you want more actions to move the cause along, are plenty more actions on the Reconciliation Week 2021 website.

Remember, it’s not only Reconciliation Week when we need to take action. Every day, we should think of how we can be allies and take action with our Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander comrades.

If you’re Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, we’d love to hear from you. We are looking for more participants in our United Workers Union First Nations Roundtable. Get in touch through our contact page.

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