When asked about his hopes for the future of reconciliation, Cameron Nichol says, “I believe that if the education surrounding [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander] history was more accurate and in depth, there would be fewer questions for people when they are adults. Sometimes when people are not educated correctly, it can be very easy for them to have tunnel vision and have their minds made up about what it means to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.”
Cameron Nichol grew up on Yugamba Land in South East Queensland, and his father’s family is from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community on Kamilaroi Land in Queensland. He has worked with TPG Telecom for the Vodafone brand since 2018.
Cameron continues, “If everyone was a little more open to listening then I believe the empathy and understanding surrounding our incredible culture would be greater, and the distance in the gap that we so desperately need to close would be so much smaller.”
He goes on to explain what being a part of the Vodafone team has been like. “What I love most about working for TPG Telecom is the fact that everyone I speak to or interact with in the company has always encouraged me to grow and learn new things.”
“I have been lucky enough to be involved in The Ngarra Network, which is a dedicated group specifically for helping everyone learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture at TPG Telecom,” he says. “It’s been amazing to see the input from other employees about how important Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is.”
National Reconciliation Week in Australia takes place every year from 27 May to 3 June. These dates are important, as they signify two important events in recent history – the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.
The first Reconciliation Week was held in 1996. The theme for National Reconciliation Week this year is “Be brave. Make change.” The idea here is to encourage all Australians to tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation and to keep working towards positive change. Many organisations and companies, like TPG Telecom, have begun to seriously invest time and resources into ways that they and their employees can work towards reconciliation. But there is still a lot we all need to do.
Here are just a few starting points for you to learn how you can be brave and make change this Reconciliation Week.
Which Country am I on? Wherever you are in Australia, you’re on the lands of Australia’s First Peoples.
First Nations people have been living in Australia for tens of thousands of years. The country we call Australia is made up of hundreds of different groups that have an ongoing connection to the environment; so it’s important to discover whose Country you’re on. The easiest way to find out the name of the Country you’re on is to find a reliable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Country map, such as the AIATSIS Map of Indigenous Australia. If you’re still not sure, you can check your local council’s website as they should have an Acknowledgement of Country on their homepage.
Recognising the Country you’re on can take many forms. It can be as simple as adding an Acknowledgement of Country to your email signature, adding Country to your mailing address, using First Nations place names when you check-in on social media and opening up work meetings with an Acknowledgement of Country.
You may be wondering where to start trying to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, history, Countries and correct terminology. But getting started really isn’t that hard with so many resources out there available.
You can start with trusted websites, such as the AIATSIS website or the National Reconciliation Week website; or you can scroll through an Indigenous news outlet such as the National Indigenous Times or ABC Indigenous to make sure you’re getting your news from a reliable source.
But what if you’re more of an audio and visual person? NITV has a huge variety of shows on offer that focus on different areas, topics and stories; and there are plenty of First Nations podcasts out there you can learn something from.
Another great way to expand your understanding is to attend local events and volunteer. Jump onto your local council’s website to find out what events are on during Reconciliation Week or throughout other times in the year. For example, one of the biggest events in NSW is Yabun Festival, held each year on January 26, which is a massive celebration of culture that everyone is welcome to join. And if you have some free time on your hands, try searching for First Nations organisations in your area where you can donate your time.
One thing you should be mindful of, however, is that if you have a friend or colleague who identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, you shouldn’t bombard them with questions unless they’ve invited you to. While you might feel like you’re doing the right thing by going to them first, they’ve probably been asked these questions countless times before. With the internet just a click away, it’s easy for you to jump online and do your own research. Just make sure you find a reliable source.
Do you feel like your school or workplace could be doing more to educate people? Take a look at First Nations owned and operated educational programs in your area that your office or school could host or participate in to help your colleagues, friends and classmates get a better understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues and history.
Racism is harmful and damaging to individuals and communities, and there’s no place for it in Australia. While speaking out against racism can be difficult, we all need to take a stand against inequality. That’s what this year’s Reconciliation Week theme is about, after all – being brave to make change.
You can find out more about how you can take a stand against racism on the Racism. It Stops With Me website.
TPG Telecom created the company’s first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in 2021 with a clearly defined set of deliverables that we wanted to achieve.
As one of Australia’s leading telecommunications companies, we see it as our responsibility to create equity and opportunities for First Nations peoples through partnering with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, communities and organisations.
Kristy Kelly, the head of Leadership, Inclusion and Belonging at TPG Telecom explained the reasons behind the creation of the Reconciliation Action Plan:
“We’ve created this RAP not just because other companies are doing it and it’s expected. We are truly committed to this continual journey of building understanding, awareness and respect for our Indigenous communities. This isn’t an agenda we’re driving. We’re really trying to collaborate and partner with the business to make sure that we’re doing this because it serves everybody.”
Mia Von Klein, an Inclusion and Belonging Consultant at TPG and the Chair of the Ngarra Network (TPG Telecom’s Employee Resource Group for reconciliation), took us through some of the milestones TPG Telecom had already met as part of its 2021-22 RAP.
“Through consultation with Cultural Representative Brendan Kerin from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, we renamed our training rooms in our North Sydney head office,” explains Mia. “The aim here was to both embody our new TPG Telecom values and preserve the local Dharug (Sydney) language as an important gesture of respect for the Traditional Custodians of the land on which our office sits.”
Mia continues, “We’ve also demonstrated respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by observing cultural protocols and developing resources and communications to increase our employees’ understanding. We’ve done this through launching an Inclusive Language Guide and Acknowledgement of/Welcome to Country Guide for our employees, to build respect and awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
“And to further embed respectful practices, we have introduced a range of Acknowledgement of Country collateral, including in our default PowerPoint templates, e-mail signatures and on our meeting room screens.
“In the same spirit, we have also sought to raise awareness of key dates of significance, such as Invasion/Survival Day, National Close the Gap Day and NAIDOC Week, as well as Reconciliation Week.”
One of the most exciting programs we’re currently sponsoring is the Tech Ignition program run by Goanna Education (previously called Dream Connection).
Goanna Education’s aim is to assist in closing the digital gap that exists so that all Australians can fully participate in the digital era.
The latest program officially commenced on 5 May 2022, with a cohort of 20 students from Matraville High School. The aim of the program is to engage First Nations female students and spark their interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM), exploring various aspects of development, programming, problem solving and data management in the IT industry over 8 weeks.
At TPG Telecom, we believe that Reconciliation in Australia is an integral part of the community. Reconciliation Week is an opportunity for everyone to recognise the progress we’ve made as a society over the years, but to also acknowledge how much further we have to go. And there is a lot of work that still needs to be done, by companies, individuals and governments.
Reconciliation Week in Australia is about taking a stand on important First Nations issues, learning how to become a good ally and putting in the hard yards to make positive change. Most importantly, Reconciliation Week asks us not just to think about things from a First Nations’ perspective for one week, but to put these values into practice every single day. Because that is the only way we are ever going to see real, positive change.
Be brave. Make change.