Go out and yarn: community engagement insights into progressing reconciliation

Bianca Graham, 27 October, 2020

“Reconciliation does not work to a strict timeline like other projects. It succeeds or fails in the hearts and minds of all Australians.”

This is one of my favourite quotes from a pioneer in Reconciliation in this country, the late Dr Evelyn Scott. It resonates with me because it reminds us that reconciliation is not a linear plan reliant on someone else to implement, but it is needs all of us to be involved at a human level. It is also one of my favourite quotes because Dr Scott is my Aunty, and she is my hero.

Reconciliation can only come if you truly know what it is you are reconciling and that it touches you at a human level. While most will get this concept, it’s the next step of how to go about it that is a little unclear or is overwhelming to some.

Well get your pen and paper ready as I am about to share with you my wisdom on the ‘how’.

My advice is…wait for it…is to go out and yarn.

“hearts and minds”

With an open heart and an open mind, engage with your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.  Listen to their stories, experiences, and aspirations.  As a former Community Relations colleague used to say to our staff before engaging with the community - “just shut up and listen”.

Community engagement allows for truth telling where histories are acknowledged, and resiliency is appreciated. It generates pride as you learn more about cultures that are the longest living on this earth. Most importantly aspirations are shared, and actions are mutually developed to meet them. That is all reconciliation in practice.

“of all Australians”

Now there is a caveat to just going out and conducting community engagement.  It is your responsibility to value the engagements you have with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. The conversations you have are gifts. They are gifts that you take back with you, value and look after. They are for all Australians to conduct as individuals and as an organisation.

This recognition extends to your Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander staff who share their stories to help educate the workplace on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ when it comes to reconciliation. This is a load that many other employees do not endure and is beyond their role requirements but do it for the greater good of the organisation.

“does not work to a strict timeline”

A meet and greet with the local Aboriginal council, a cultural awareness training course or conducting an Acknowledgement of Country does not mean you have achieved ‘reconciliation’ success. Engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities is for life. It will evolve overtime if you allow it and your role in reconciliation will too.

Be genuine and committed in your community engagement with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and together we will be a nation of unity and reconciliation.

Over the month of October, QUT Business School are celebrating Indigenous Business Month with thought leadership and insights from different members of our community.

Author

Bianca Graham

Bianca Graham is a proud Torres Strait Islander woman and is a corporate affairs professional as well as QUT Business School alumna with over ten years of community relations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs experience in the resource and public sectors.

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