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Reconciliation Week: a time for all Australians to walk together with courage

28 May 2019

News and media


Timeless artwork by Jordan Roser

By Professor Ken Smith, Dean and CEO, ANZSOG

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements. It is also a time to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

Reconciliation is a continuing process, which must be practised and strengthened every day if we are to become a nation which fully respects and includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.

NRW commemorates two significant dates in Indigenous affairs – the 1967 referendum (27 May) and the High Court’s 1992 Mabo decision (3 June). These were major milestones in establishing Indigenous rights and self-determination in Australia

The theme of this year’s NRW is: Grounded in truth, walk together with courage.

It asks Australians from all backgrounds to contribute to a unified future.

At ANZSOG, we are on our own journey towards including Indigenous culture and knowledge in our practice, and building stronger connections between governments and the First Peoples of Australia and New Zealand.

Our public services must serve all Australians and New Zealanders. They can only do this if they: employ and retain Indigenous peoples at all levels; involve Indigenous communities at every stage of policy development, planning and implementation; and understand the contribution that Indigenous knowledge and culture can make to good policy and service outcomes that benefit everyone.

ANZSOG has hosted two Indigenous Public Servant forums which have brought together more than 150 senior Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander and Māori public servants to discuss the challenges of what has been described as “walking in two worlds” as an Indigenous person and a public servant. These forums have identified barriers preventing public services from taking full advantage of the knowledge and skills of Indigenous people. Planning for future forums is underway and a report from the 2018 forum has been distributed to delegates for feedback before publication. The report from the 2017 forum can be found on the ANZSOG website.

In February, ANZSOG, with financial support from the Commonwealth Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), held the Reimagining Public Administration conference in Melbourne, which brought together more than 400 public servants, academics and Indigenous community leaders.

The conference explored the future of Indigenous public administration, how we can embed Indigenous ways of knowing and doing into public service practice, and shared successes in a range of policy areas including health, education, and justice. A full report from the conference will be available soon, and we are working with DPMC to determine details of the next conference.

It was the second conference of its kind, with the Indigenous Affairs and Public Administration conference questioning the impact of the past 50 years of public administration on Indigenous affairs and raised issues for the next 50 years in this important nation building area.

Our globally-recognised John L. Alford Case Library will soon include the “Indigenous Wise Practice” stream, a collection of case studies which show how working with Indigenous communities can deliver positive results.

This week, we have released a submission to the Review of the APS which explores how the APS could change the Public Service Act 1999 to reinforce cultural changes aimed at recruiting and retain Indigenous employees and incorporating First Peoples knowledge, values and culture into public sector practice.

The public sector has a major role to play in the Reconciliation process, and at ANZSOG we are committed to supporting the public sector as it rethinks the way it works with First Peoples.

“Timeless” artwork by Jordan Roser