Reconciliation Action Plan: A new and advanced vision

Monday, 01 May 2023


    The AICD has launched its new RAP, building upon previous efforts and reflecting the organisation’s commitment to learning from the world’s oldest continuing civilisation. 

    The AICD has released its new Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which will drive a focused effort by the organisation to strengthen governance by incorporating the insights of First Nations peoples, to improve the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australian boardrooms and to support self- determination.

    AICD chair John Atkin FAICD emphasised the importance of reconciliation at the Australian Governance Summit in March 2022. “We will be far stronger as a society when we achieve reconciliation with our First Nations people,” he said. “We must go about that task with humility and respect for each other and the communities in which we work.”

    AICD vision

    We see a reconciled Australia that learns from the world’s oldest continuing civilisation and its systems of governance developed over thousands of years. Reconciliation means all Australians and all organisations recognise the fundamental importance of community and Country.

    Reconciliation will bring greater knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the wider community and we envisage a prominent role for First Nations peoples in leadership positions across every sector and at every level of government. This will see more First Nations peoples represented in Australian boardrooms and there will be a pipeline of emerging First Nations leaders ready to step into these roles.

    Reconciliation reinforces the AICD’s broad mission to strengthen society through world- class governance and our reconciliation vision is for strong, well-governed organisations across the Australian economy that listen to, learn from and serve Australia’s First Nations peoples and their communities.

    To advance this vision, we will work within our sphere of influence to educate, engage and lead the director community in these focus areas:

    • Lift Australian director engagement with national reconciliation
    • Build the capability of a community of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders
    • Support self-determination in governance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
    • RepresentationbyAboriginalandTorresStrait Islander directors
    • Recognise the value of the approaches of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to governance and custodianship
    • Contribute to the national conversation on First Nations self-determination and Treaty.

    As Australia’s independent and trusted voice of governance, we recognise the role we can play in bringing national reconciliation to the broad and diverse range of organisations that our members lead throughout the nation.

    Key components

    A strong First Nations voice in RAP development and implementation, respecting self- determination: The AICD recognises the importance of including First Nations voices in the RAP’s development and implementation, ensuring that the plan remains relevant, respectful and effective.

    Improved governance, resourcing and executive accountability: The AICD is committed to enhancing the governance structure supporting the RAP, allocating appropriate resources and holding executives accountable for achieving the plan’s objectives.

    Alignment with the AICD’s mission and driving impact within its sphere of influence: The RAP’s objectives align with the organisation’s broader mission to strengthen society through world-class governance as it seeks to accelerate sustainable change within the AICD’s sphere of influence.

    Reflecting and improving

    Following the completion of the first AICD RAP in 2017–19, IPS Management Consultants conducted a review of its implementation. The review revealed that while the AICD had made progress in certain areas, it fell short in others, such as employment and procurement strategies, building impactful partnerships with First Nations stakeholders and prioritising RAP deliverables during challenging times such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

    These insights prompted the AICD to embark on a journey of reflection, open dialogue and improvement. By asking difficult questions and engaging in challenging conversations, the AICD is aiming to create a more robust, meaningful and effective RAP.

    Developing the RAP

    To develop the refreshed RAP, the AICD formed a cross-functional working group co-chaired by AICD Sector Lead — First Nations Justin Agale MAICD and head of public affairs Matt Pritchard. Input from First Nations members, stakeholders and the Division Council informed the updated Reconciliation Vision, which was approved by the board in June 2022. The AICD’s reconciliation priorities and opportunities to contribute positively to national reconciliation were also informed by discussions with key member advisory committees and consultation with state and territory Division Councils.

    RAP initiatives were developed through organisation-wide workshops supported by all-staff sessions on reconciliation and perspectives from First Nations members and stakeholders.

    For the first time, the RAP Working Group includes external Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander member advisers, who were selected through a national expression of interest invitation extended to First Nations members. These advisers will play a crucial role in shaping the direction of the RAP and ensuring its relevance and effectiveness.

    Creation of the artwork

    The AICD commissioned Wonnarua/Wanaruah artist Saretta Fielding to update the AICD’s original RAP artwork, Ngiyakai Yapung — This Way Together, to reflect the AICD journey since our first RAP and our hopes and aspirations for the future. Concepts for the new artwork, launched in March, were developed following an immersive workshop facilitated by the artist with members of the AICD RAP Working Group, senior executives and culture team. The workshop invited AICD staff from across the country to reflect on reconciliation and how the AICD can play a meaningful role. This is how the new artwork, Wola Malang — Walk Together, was born.

    Wola Malang — Walk Together shares the reconciliation story of the AICD and its commitment to learning from the world’s oldest continuing civilisation to enhance Australian systems of governance for the benefit of society. It highlights working together on a journey alongside First Nations people to embed reconciliation into the DNA of the AICD community and brings an acknowledgment to all traditional custodians across the organisation’s national footprint.

    Flowing upward from the bottom of the artwork, the visual narrative begins with a representation of the first RAP artwork that reflected the introduction of reconciliation into the business and the start of a journey of cultural change. The new artwork imagery depicts six small gathering circles, each with a traditional symbol for people at its centre, capturing reconciliation progress to date and moving into the AICD expanding the RAP vision to influence, educate, engage and lead the director community across six key focus areas. A large symbol of gathered people is seen at the very centre of the design and together these three connected images bring a threefold meaning. They represent the
    AICD’s One Team Culture — working together in agreement — and reflect the organisation’s three core business principles of governance and policy leadership, education and community. This design
    is repeated on the canvas and connected by people symbols, highlighting community, collaboration and relationship along the journey of two-way learning and shared knowledge.

    People pathways linking the artwork imagery represent reconciliation DNA flowing throughout the AICD community, bringing a cultural lens across the business. Elders’ symbolism within the pathway and at the top of the artwork represents education. It acknowledges cultural values and the passing on of age-old cultural teachings to future generations. It signals opportunities to learn together to empower future leaders to embrace reconciliation.

    The artwork backdrop of three gathering circles is reflective of tribal groups, acknowledging traditional custodians across the nation. It captures the AICD sphere of influence and the expansion and growth of reconciliation through the ongoing journey as Wola Malang —Walk Together.

    Continuing an ongoing journey

    The launch of the AICD’s new Innovate RAP promises stronger governance with First Nations collaboration.

    Chair John Atkin FAICD told the launch event at AICD Sydney headquarters that the new RAP had the far-reaching potential to not only engage the institute’s 50,000 members and lift the numbers of First Nations directors on boards all over Australia, but also to develop a better form of governance.

    “So, we ultimately help to change the DNA of the country, not just the organisation,” he said. “That’s the bold vision.”

    He noted that the latest Innovate RAP affords a two-way process. “This is an opportunity for us as a governance institute to learn about First Nations culture and the stewardship principles that have underpinned their governance, and to develop a richer form of governance for this country.”

    Engaging AICD members so they can be part of this journey is very important, he added. Our members play leadership roles in the overwhelming majority of organisations, whether large or small, for-profit or for-purpose, right across Australia.

    Also speaking at the event was Wonnarua/ Wanaruah artist Saretta Fielding, who said she was excited to be part of the creative journey, noting that gathering circles of interlinked people were central to her artwork, Wola Malang — Walk Together. “There’s a mutual benefit in reconciliation,” she noted. “It’s about teams and collaboration — and it’s about those networks on Country.”

    The new artwork reflects the symbolism of the AICD’s commitment to change the DNA of the organisation and its vision for reconciliation, said Fielding.

    AICD Sector Lead — First Nations Justin Agale MAICD told the event that reconciliation is a sacred act, as outlined in the proposal for Makaratta (agreement-making) in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. “Traditionally, it’s about coming together after a conflict and making peace,” he said. “And I think one of the most important things we have to think about with reconciliation is that at its core lies a possibility for forgiveness. That act of forgiveness will heal both sides and allows our hearts to be at rest and at peace.”

    This article first appeared under the headline 'Reconciliation Song' in the May 2023 issue of Company Director magazine.  

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