Towards reconciliation: Stop, collaborate and listen.

by Richenda Vermeulen
January 23, 2024

Australia remains the only former British colony to celebrate its national day (January 26th) on the anniversary that colonisation commenced.

In the past, on Australia Day / Invasion Day we’ve used our voice and platform in the marketing industry to share Why Brands Should Think Twice About Celebrating Australia Day, or Why Silence Isn’t Enough. Every year we give our staff the choice to work on this day or switch the public holiday but communicate there’s no “right or wrong” to working on this day.

We stand by these opinions and actions — at the time, we weren't speaking for First Nations people. Instead our target was the media and marketing industry.

However the process and outcome of The Voice taught us we need to change. We see that we need to listen more to First Nations voices and speak less without consultation. Our focus for the future has moved from lightning rod Op Eds to long-term sustainable action working alongside (not on behalf of) First Nations people.

So this year, we’re going to stop, collaborate, and listen.

This is the journey we’re on.

Our journey

1. Setting intention through our Reconciliation Action Plan

We reconfirmed what it was we were aiming to do – as a business, using our platform & connections (or clients), with our staff, expertise, time and money – through our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). We co-created this with our team and brainstormed tangible ideas about how we can better facilitate reconciliation at ntegrity.

Our commitment is to:

  • Develop a deeper level of awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures and peoples for our team, through regular learning opportunities.

  • Provide our team with opportunities to listen to Indigenous voices and attend relevant cultural events.

  • Co-create strategies for reconciliation directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

2. Refreshing our RAP

We have a RAP, but like so many policies this needs to be refreshed regularly, and embedded into the organisation if it’s to have any real impact.

So we’ve made updates, including integrating an Acknowledgement of Country in all our events, presentations, and formal team meetings. We’re looking at First Nation recruitment opportunities and freelancer engagement. And we’re on the look out for a new engagement partner we can support with fundraising.

We’ve also formed a RAP working group of staff who want to lead this at ntegrity, with monthly check-ins to formalise and plan actions for the year and check in on progress.

3. Investing time in listening and learning through Cultural Awareness Training

We partnered with Australians Together to provide cultural awareness training for our team, facilitated by Hannah Kallady. So far, we’ve completed 2 sessions.

The training guides staff through the key things we need to understand to meaningfully engage with First Nations peoples, cultures and histories through our workplace. It included things like listening to stories from First Nations people. We each completed the Ngurra-Kurlu Framework, translating to “the home within” representing the 5 key elements of Warlpiri culture — Land, Kinship, Language, Law and Ceremony. To understand what it means to have culture and identity, and then what it means to lose that, as First Nations people did through colonisation.

4. Learning from our clients and the Not-For-Profit sector

As well as the 5+ year journey we’re on with Australians Together, we’re finding new opportunities to learn from our clients who are leading in reconciliation.

Last year we volunteered with Amnesty International for its ‘Write for Rights Campaign’. We wrote letters to the government in support of Uncle Pabai and Uncle Paul in Australia, two community leaders from the Torres Strait Islands in Australia fighting against the impacts of climate change on their livelihood, community and culture.

Our Melbourne staff visited Greenfleet’s site at Wurneet Laang Laang, on Boon Wurrung land, the Boonwurrung Land and Sea Council hosted a Smoking Ceremony and Welcome to Country to start the day – a beautiful way to honour the land.

And we’re looking for a new First Nations engagement partner we can support through our annual giving and fundraising expertise.

Uncle Pabai and Uncle Paul holding some of the messages of support they have received ahead of their court appearance against the Australian government to push for firmer climate action.

Throughout this process, we’ve learnt that reconciliation is an ongoing journey that requires dedication and co-creation. As an agency, we’re hoping to support First Nations communities the best way we can — one step, one conversation, and one commitment at a time.