Since 1993, National Reconciliation Week has been an integral way for Australians to celebrate their shared heritage, culture, and accomplishments.
It’s more than a holiday. It’s a means of making (and celebrating) impactful change. Also, it’s a reminder of how far Australians have come and how far Australians have to go to establish a culture of peace, respect, and harmony.
But First, What Is National Reconciliation Week?
For the layman, Reconciliation Australia describes it as:
Reconciliation is a journey for all Australians – as individuals, families, communities, organisations, and importantly, as a nation. At the heart of this journey are relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We all have a role to play when it comes to reconciliation, and in playing our part, we collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories, cultures, and futures.
From the 27th of May to the 3rd of June, Australia observes National Reconciliation Week every year without fail.
There is also a theme that differs from year after year. The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2021 happens to be:
More than a word. Reconciliation takes action.
The theme for 2021 focuses on urging Australians to move towards making bolder and more impactful choices.
Given that 2020 focused the world's attention on the importance of diversity and inclusion, it’s not shocking. It’s high time that Australians jump on that bandwagon as well.
Why Should We Observe National Reconciliation Week At Work?
A reconciled Australia is one where our rights as First Australians are not just respected but championed in all the places that matter ….”
~ Kirstie Parker (Board Member, Reconciliation Australia)
Diversity and inclusion are not just “nice” things to have. It is a critical need that leaders must recognise, acknowledge and implement.
But diversity and inclusion just don’t happen by themselves. It takes the efforts of everyone- including leaders and employees- to make it a valuable part of the company culture.
Celebrating National Reconciliation Week in the workplace will achieve four primary aims:
- Address the oppression faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people openly.
- Make your employees more aware of other cultures and the importance of cultural identity.
- Make your workplace feel like a safe place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Encourage the discussion of discrimination and its consequences.
13 Amazing Ways To Celebrate National Reconciliation Week In The Workplace
Reconciliation must transcend Australian political theatre and promote a sense of national unity ….
~ Patrick Dodson (The State of Reconciliation in Australia, 2016)
Celebrating National Reconciliation Week in the workplace is about learning from the past and using it to make our present conditions better.
Suppose you are a leader or HR professional. In that case, this list will highlight the 13 simple ways to mark National Reconciliation Week in the workplace:
1. Honour The Food
In all kinds of cultures, food plays a vital part. Appreciating a culture's food is a terrific place to start for embracing it truly.
Hold a team lunch (or breakfast) to honour the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's culinary influence.
It’s a great way to start reconciliation conversations among your employees. Meanwhile, they get to taste delicious dishes that they would never have tried before.
Here are some ideas on what to do:
- Firstly, consider hosting a potluck. Request that your team bring in some delicacies that are distinctive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Remember to request that they be as authentic as possible. People will learn to value other cultures by making cuisine with their own hands. (P.S. This is not a remote-friendly option.)
- Secondly, contact your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander restaurants to cater a team lunch or breakfast to show your support. It's a great way to support local businesses while also enjoying some authentic cuisine. (P.S. This is a fantastic choice for both remote and regular workers.)
Recommended Resource: A Guide To Work From Home Policy
2. Ask Aboriginal Leaders Or Employees To Share Their Stories
Stories are a powerful medium of representation. It can help bridge the gap that we have knowingly created.
Invite a local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leader or employee to host a reconciliation discussion with your team.
Request that the speaker talks about their personal experiences, prejudices, and challenges daily by their communities.
Also, make sure the conversations are two-way. That way, your employees can voice their doubts about being better allies and getting rid of any unconscious biases.
Recommended Resource: How to Outsmart Unconscious Bias In Recruitment
3. Organize A Local Cultural Tour
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are an integral part of Australia’s thousand-year-old history.
To truly understand their concerns and sacrifices, your employees must understand and respect that very history.
- Conduct a Reconciliation Culture Walk to all the significant landmarks and make it mandatory for your people to attend.
- Hire an Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders guide to lead the walk to ensure that their side of the story is being expressed and heard.
- You could add a quiz or trivia at the end of the culture walk to make it more engaging. To ensure that your people are more proactive, attach some fantastic benefits to winning the quiz (such as gift cards).
4. Donate To NGOs
Countless Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders are denied the chance and support they need to succeed.
Several Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and NGOs are working hard to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live a decent life with equal rights. Assist these organisations by:
- Asking your employees to donate and then matching the donation from your side.
- Hold a donation drive over your town or city.
- Organise an event and donate the proceeds to a local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander non-profit program.
Recommended Resource: Foster Your Business With Corporate Social Responsibility
5. Volunteer At The Local Community
Volunteering at local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander NGOs is another way you and your staff can show your solidarity.
It's a fantastic opportunity for your company to connect with the local communities. Additionally, it helps your people develop empathy and relate on a deeper level.
6. Start A Diversity Referral Program
It is not enough to educate people about National Reconciliation Week to honour it. You should also take concrete actions to ensure that they have an equal playing field.
Initiating equal job opportunities are a powerful way to combat prejudice towards Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders and bring meaningful change.
- Start by inaugurating a referral program meant for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other underrepresented groups.
- Ensure that the hiring panel is a mix of multicultural people.
- Drive awareness about it through social media channels.
- Encourage other local businesses to drive forward similar hiring initiatives.
Recommended Resource: A Guide To Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
7. Advocate On Social Media Channels
The most effective way to show your support is through social media. Promote the National Reconciliation Week hashtag across all your social media networks.
For 2021, they are #MoreThanAWord and #NRW2021
Similarly, encourage your employees to share their views in support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It may be a video message, holding up handmade signs in a collage image, or sharing the CEO's powerful call to action.
8. A Gift Hamper That Marks Reconciliation Week
Giving gift hampers curated of items made or endorsed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a brilliant way to honour and support their culture.
Keep in mind that you are not mocking or disrespecting their culture. When purchasing items, please note the community's opinions on whether or not they are appropriate for widespread use.
Similarly, avoid buying things from enterprises established by non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that try to capitalise on their culture.
Here are a few of our ideas:
- Books that cover their history or were written by authors belonging to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
- Handcrafted items crafted by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
- Self-care products marketed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned businesses.
9. Officewide Documentary Screenings
Holding company-wide screenings of influential films and documentaries is another excellent method to educate your employees about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
You and your team can meet remotely for an hour or two to connect and relax. This activity is exciting and will undoubtedly spark some intriguing conversations about the film.
10. Pledge Support For Local Businesses
Any business would have numerous needs to be met daily.
To commemorate National Reconciliation Week in the workplace, choose your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned companies to provide your organisation with the necessary supplies and services.
11. Pledge Support To New Constitutional Policies
Despite being an integral part of Australia’s history, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people barely get the representation they need in the Constitution.
To advocate for their cause and be a strong ally, read the "Uluru Statement from the Heart" and share it with your employees, other leaders, and people on how they can help.
12. Reward And Recognize People
Look for opportunities to reward and recognise your employees who actively work to make diversity and inclusion a part of the company culture.
Be sure to publicly appreciate these organisational superstars who genuinely care about their peers and others. Another upside is that other employees would be inspired by them and decide to follow in their footsteps.
Recommended Resource: The Ultimate Guide To Employee Rewards and Recognition
13. Conduct A Webinar
A webinar is fantastic for promoting cultural awareness and shedding light on some critical issues.
For honouring National Reconciliation Week in the workplace, call a panel of leaders from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, who will create an informative and active discussion on the struggles of their communities.
It will expose your coworkers and employees to the harsh truths of the world. As a result, they will be more conscious of their behaviour, enabling them to be better allies.
Honouring reconciliation should not be restricted to simply seven days in the workplace.
Instead, as a leader, you should take purposeful actions daily. The goal is to seek equal opportunities for all Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.