Our first reconciliation action plan


MARK SCOTT: Good afternoon everybody,
I’m Mark Scott, Secretary of the New South Wales
Department of Education. Joining me today are Claire Beattie and
Darren Bell, and they’re members of the department’s Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group. Can I begin by acknowledging the
traditional owners of the land in which we meet. The custodians, the Gadigal people
of Eora Nation and pay my respect to Elders past and
present, and acknowledge the continuing
contribution and connection to this land. CLAIRE BEATTIE: I’d like to welcome
everyone and acknowledge that no matter where
you’re meeting today, that you’re meeting on Aboriginal land. Always has been, always will be Aboriginal
land. DARREN BELL: I’m a Ngunnawal/Yuinman. My family comes from Yass and the south
coast of New South Wales. I’d like to pay my respects to our Elders, and our mob and say thank you to them for their continual custodianship of our
cultures, our lands and our waterways. MARK SCOTT: So let me talk a little bit about what we’re up to this afternoon. We’re launching the Department of
Education’s first Reconciliation Action Plan, and it’s a plan for our corporate staff. So what we’re going to do this afternoon is to talk a little bit about the origins of the
plan, why we’re doing it, what we hope to
achieve from it and what comes next. So I’m really pleased this afternoon to be able to launch the department’s first
RAP, our first Reconciliation Action Plan, and it talks about our commitment to
diversity, to inclusion and to advancing reconciliation. And it gives us some practical steps, some
practical actions which are going to drive our contribution to
reconciliation. The focus of this first plan is for our staff who work in corporate
offices. Our corporate staff, our corporate officers and the partnerships that we have, and it’s going to lay the foundation in the
department for reconciliation initiatives and we’re going to develop successive plans
in the years to come with an increased focus on schools and the communities in which we serve. You can see on the screen there, a copy of this plan which has been
developed in consultation with our staff and the
broader community, that’s going to be the centrepiece of our work
in the year ahead. Let me talk a little bit about the first RAP that we are developing. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking and
talking about this, and it’s important to remember that the
RAP is an ongoing process for an organisation like us. And it provides us with an opportunity to
think about what this is like as place of work and to challenge ourselves so that we have
a deep, rich cultural understanding and cultural
insight. It’s important that as a department, we
have that. Because we want to have deeper insight,
deeper understanding deeper commitment and deeper respect. I was very keen to develop a RAP when I joined the department from my time
running the ABC. At the ABC, we’d struggled in a number of
areas, I think, in working with our Aboriginal staff, we’d failed to make key targets
that we’d set on employment. And the transformational event for us in all
these things was the development of the RAP. It gave us some clear targets, it gave us
some clear challenges, but it forces us to think about ourselves
as an organisation. About what we were like as a place to
work, whether we had deep cultural insight,
whether we had cultural safety. As we focused on ourselves a bit and the kinds of organisation that we were
and what we wanted to be, it was amazing that we started to deliver on
all those targets as well. I found it very powerful, and it was an idea I brought with me to the
department. As you’d know, all around the country, major corporations and organisations like
us have reconciliation action plans that are developed
with Reconciliation Australia to help us reflect and to think about the
kind of organisation we are, the kind of organisation we want to be and the kind of outcomes that we want to
achieve for the broader community, for the
organisation itself and the outcomes that we want to be able
to deliver. So I saw that the important part of this plan was to start with us, to reflect on us and to think about the kind of organisation
we are and that’s the start of this journey. So what are some measures of success
that we’ve identified in this first Reconciliation Action Plan? You’ll see some of them are up there on
your screen. We’re focused on employment. We want to exceed the Premier’s Priority
target for doubling the number of Aboriginal
people in senior leadership roles by 2025, and we want to see 3% of senior
leadership roles filed by Aboriginal staff. We want to support and increase the
number of Aboriginal people working in all positions across our
department, and we want to think very creatively and
deliberatively as to how we do that, how we make this a
great place to work for our Aboriginal staff and how we’re providing outstanding
professional opportunities to build a great career with us here in the
Department of Education. You know, we’re a big and important
institution in this state. We’re probably the biggest employer in this
state, so when we do things, we can make an
impact. So we want to be supporting Aboriginal
owned businesses in New South Wales. So we’re saying we want to award
Aboriginal owned businesses at least 3% of domestic contracts for goods
and services issued by the department by 2021. And when you get a big organisation like
us, with the kind of budget we have, that 3%, we think, can make an enormous
difference to Aboriginal owned businesses all around
New South Wales. Finally and very importantly, we recognise
our leadership position in this community. So for the department to be focused on
national reconciliation makes an impact on the future of this
nation as far as national reconciliation is
concerned. No organisation is more involved in shaping
the future of Australia than the New South Wales Department of
Education – 810,000 students in our schools. The largest educator in the country. The future of Australia has been
determined by the New South Wales Department of
Education. So as we develop this RAP and then roll
the activities from future RAPs into schools, what a
profound impact we can have on the challenge and the importance of
national reconciliation. We talk a lot about reconciliation, it’s there
in the plan, we talk about it a lot, but as an Aboriginal
man, Darren, what does reconciliation mean to you? DARREN BELL: It means acknowledging
past wrongs and actions. Because when you say sorry for
something, you never do it again. And that’s what I think we need to
remember, basically. MARK SCOTT: We need to start by that
point of reflection. And part of the work that we’ll be doing as
part of this RAP is reflecting, coming to deeper points of
understanding ourselves. And I’ll come back and ask you in a minute where future RAPs go on the back of this. Claire, we’ve run a consultation process to
this point. I mean, we had the idea of a brand new
RAP, but then went and talked with our staff and
talked with stakeholders. Take us through a little bit of
what that consultation process has involved. CLAIRE BEATTIE: Thank you, Mark. I’m really delighted that over 2,000 of our
corporate staff have engaged thus far in our journey in
RAP. You’ve joined us in mass voices like today,
thank you for coming, and joining, and listening. You’ve joined us for cinema events. Some people have joined us for our
Aboriginal network events. We’ve also had discussions via email
to the RAP inbox. We’ve also had surveys. One of the most interesting parts of this
journey was what people said about what they
expect to see in the RAP in our statement. You’ll notice the RAP statement
encompasses all of the feedback we had, and some of the key messages we had
was around mutual respect, integrity, cultural safety. So you’ll see that featured in the RAP as
well. I’m really proud of the journey we’ve been
on, and I think we’ve walked really mindfully
together, and we’ve really taken our time with
listening and having really honest conversations. So I thank you for coming on this journey. It’s not finished yet. As we’ve said, there’s more steps to go. But really, there’s over 600 people online
right now joining this conversation. So it’s really exciting. MARK SCOTT: You talk about walking
together. Explain that a little bit more. What does that mean? CLAIRE BEATTIE: I think it’s really important
that we’ve paced this, that we haven’t sprinted off in a direction. Everyone is on a different part of their
journey for reconciliation. Some people are new to the journey,
they’ve just stepped in. They might not know a lot about Aboriginal
culture or the history that we’ve had with the
department. Some people have grown up Aboriginal. Some people believe in reconciliation,
some people are sceptical. We’re all at different parts of that journey, so there’s no point in sprinting ahead and
leaving people behind. We have to be patient, we have to be
mindful, we have to have mutual respect and have
really open conversations. One of the uncles, Uncle Greg,
who’s a Darug Elder, actually talks about the reason why pianos
have black and white keys, and the reason why they make beautiful
music is because you play both
black and white keys. So I think it’s really important that all of us
come together on this journey towards reconciliation. MARK SCOTT: So it’s a great opportunity,
in a sense, to reset the relationship, to come to deeper
understanding, establish greater respect and insight, and then to roll that into some really
practical steps and strategies so we want to work our way through. We’ve had some key theme that have
emerged through the consultation, and then we roll that into practical steps, because we want this to be a living
blueprint. I hope that this RAP becomes really one of
the very important documents, a cornerstone document of the Department
of Education. A year ago, we launched the strategic plan. I said, “I wanted that to be a living
document.”, and whenever I go on to schools and
talking with school leaders, I’m discussing the strategic plan, and I feel
it is a living document, I get it quoted back at me all the time. I want the RAP to be a living document as
well, and I want you to be able to read it and to
access it, and to think about what you’re doing in
your corporate office, wherever you work in the department to advance the principles of the RAP and to deliver on the strategies that are
outlined. So let me talk a little bit about the first
actions that we’re going to have as part of this
RAP. The RAP as you will see,
is backed up by 12 concrete actions and 52 deliverables that we’ve identified, and they’re centred around four key themes: relationships, respect, opportunities
and governance. And with these themes and actions
and deliverables and lots of hard work, we really want to see the development of positive two-way
relationships based on trust. We want to see Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander histories, cultures and rights valued and recognised. And we really want to be a great diversified
workforce that reflects the communities we serve and is really growing the state’s first
economy in a very practical and supportive way. In doing all this, we want to continue the
important work we do with the AECG. For 40 years or more, the AECG has been
an important partner of the Department of Education. They help us grow our insight, and to grow our effectiveness on the
ground and working with community, and also helping to serve Aboriginal
students and improve their well-being and their
educational outcomes. In the year ahead, we want to work closely
with the AECG to forge a new agreement with them so there can be a pathway to further
partnership in the decade ahead. Darren, we’ve got this RAP document,
and I encourage people to find it, to find it online, to read and think about
how we’re going to do to make it real in the department. What comes next? It’s great to have a document, but where
does it go from here? DARREN BELL: I think one of our big
articles is truth telling. We need to, like I mentioned before, acknowledge what’s happened
in the past, and things like that, and ensuring that it doesn’t happen again. I think that’s a big factor in
how we move forward. MARK SCOTT: What do you mean by truth
telling? DARREN BELL: The department had a
policy called the Clean, cut and courteous policy where if a non-Aboriginal family didn’t want an Aboriginal student in their school, they
can have them removed, basically. And clean, cut and courteous
so you had to be, obviously, clean, cut and presentable, and courteous, and
not be rude and things like that. So non-Aboriginal family didn’t want a
student in a class or in the school like that, they could have
them removed. That’s the sort of thing that not a lot… I’m sure a lot of people watching right now
wouldn’t know that, and it still affects people who are alive
today who had to undergo that policy. MARK SCOTT: Including parents and
grandparents. DARREN BELL: Absolutely, yeah. That sort of stuff can have quite a
long-lasting effect on people, and their self-worth, and all that sort of
stuff. So we need to acknowledge that sort of
thing, that that actually did happen and this
department did implement them at one stage. Thankfully, obviously,
they’re gone now, but… MARK SCOTT: So you’ve got to deal with
that stuff? DARREN BELL: You got to deal with
that stuff, yeah. I mean, it’s part of the healing process as
well, I believe. With this RAP, we’ve instigated… Well, not instigated, it’s a bit of a harsh
word, but we’ve implemented, I should say, a
network, an Aboriginal corporate staff network. At that network, we had a barbecue. That was our inaugural type of thing. We had a barbecue last December, and we had our colleagues from all
different state offices around Sydney come along. So we made some new friends, met up
with some old friends and had some yarns. The yarns were about truth telling
and things like that, that’s what we need to do, and cultural
awareness training for our leaders in the department, so for our managers, and our directors, and our secretaries and dep secs. Hopefully, that would filter down to them
bringing it into their teams, and overall, the department would undergo
cultural awareness training. Because it’s not just about… You need to make the department a
culturally safe place to work, and that benefits everyone, I think. So with our next RAP, it’s called the
Innovate RAP, and that will be developed over the next two
years. And we want people to walk with us on that
journey. It’s a two-way street and we want people to
walk with us on that journey. MARK SCOTT: So opportunities this year,
for cultural awareness training and the executive did do a day and a half of cultural awareness training in
partnership with the AECG and with leaders from our schools who
came and spoke with us. And I think I can say, for every member of
the executive team, it was an absorbing, a fascinating, a
challenging and confronting conversation and
experience. And I think many of us would have thought, we’ve done this kind of thing before. I was just amazed at what I learnt
from that experience, and the challenges that came on the back
of that. To actually use that insight to help make
this a great place for all our staff to work. An inclusive place, a supportive place, a place where we can really lead the
community and then the responsibility you have to the
generations to come who are in our care everyday. So we launch this RAP now
for the corporate staff. Then the Innovate RAP comes in a years
time, where the truth telling will be more a
feature of that. And then, on we go with more ambitious
targets and absolute clarity about the outcomes
that we’re trying to achieve. That’s the story of this RAP document. I’d encourage you, as I said, to take a look
at it. There’s beautiful artwork on the front of it. And this is done by a student in one of our
schools, Suzanna from Boggabilla Central School. She’s from the Gamilaraay Country, and we’re having this artwork framed. It will be featured in a prominent place
at 105 Philip Street, our Parramatta office. Some of you have already been online. Excuse me as I reach over to find the
tough questions. I’ll be answering easy questions. These guys will be answering the tough
questions. A really good question has come through
here about Aboriginal catering companies. Great idea, but where do you start, how do you find an Aboriginal catering
company? CLAIRE BEATTIE: On the internet, live at
the moment, you’ll find the RAP hub. Where it has a lot of FAQs including where to find Aboriginal catering
companies, Aboriginal suppliers. It’s really important, as Mark said, that we’ve made a commitment to support
Aboriginal businesses. And as we are such a massive organisation and a massive buyer of things, if we did meet that KPI of 3% of buying
from Aboriginal businesses, it really would help Aboriginal economic
prosperity as well. Please do check out the RAP hub, it’s live
now. MARK SCOTT: And Darren, where do we
find more information? If I’m an Aboriginal member of staff and I
want to join the network, how do I go about doing that? So what we’re looking at doing is setting
up a little Working Group in the initial stages. Develop initiatives that we want to involve with our Aboriginal colleagues. We are looking at things like even having a social media page for the
network, so people can engage in that way and talk
to each other. Which is obviously, find it a lot easier to do
it that way. Because I think we need this network especially because I don’t know how many
of my colleagues are Aboriginal in the department,
and especially in 105 Philip Street. I sent a little broadcast email asking staff to see who’s Aboriginal. I’ve got quite a few responses which I’m
really happy about. So we’re going to develop this network so we can keep abreast of these sort of
things, and contribute ideas for the next RAP. MARK SCOTT: And even opportunities, I
guess, for staff, they might not be sure that they want to
connect with the network or identify, just to even talk through some
of those issues with you or other members of staff. DARREN BELL: Absolutely, yeah. MARK SCOTT: A question’s come through
here from Tracy. What does success look like to me, or what does a successful RAP look like? I think it’s multifaceted. Finally, finally… What I really want to do is transform the
future of Australia by shaping the lives of the young people
that are in our care. One of the things that we all must be
desperate to do is to ensure that Aboriginal students in our
schools have learning outcomes that are
the same as any child in our care. The gap that currently exists now is
untenable, and unacceptable, and is an indictment of what has been
offered by this country to young Aboriginal people. So finally, you want to fix that. But you don’t just fix that by focusing on
that, you’ve actually got to be the right kind of
organisation to do that. And so, I see a reconciliation, I see a
cultural safety, I see the kinds of staff we can recruit and
keep are all about us being the right kind of
organisation to be able to deliver those results that we
really fundamentally want. But we’re a leading institution in the
country and we should be leading and modelling
reconciliation. Modelling being a great place to work. Modelling cultural insight and
understanding and achieving extraordinary things for the
young Aboriginal people in our care, in our schools. So that’s all. That’s a long journey, but you start by this kind of process that we
got starting now, and we don’t rest here, as you’ve heard, we keep moving, and we keep advancing, and next year, we’ll be back with a new
plan. Lots of people are asking where they can get cultural awareness
training. How are we going to offer that? DARREN BELL: As far as I know, the
AECG can help offer it. Like you said, you undertook the training
yourself. There are other organisations. I actually see commercials on SBS, how
they do it and the company that they use, things like
that. But we do have, of course. CLAIRE BEATTIE: I invite people to write
in into the RAP inbox. If they want to run with
cultural awareness training, we’ve got a whole set of providers from the amazing Mick Gooda’s of the
world; Flick Ryan, a few others that we do use that have been phenomenal in taking our
staff through the journey. And it’s an emotional journey,
so people have to be ready for that. There is truth telling on that journey, it can
be uncomfortable. But at the end of it, it does create a more
inclusive, a more welcoming workplace for all of us to come to a mutual understanding. So if you are interested in doing cultural
awareness training, please write into the RAP inbox or go to the
RAP hub. MARK SCOTT: Just a couple more
questions, and then, it’s going to be cake time. So I’ll come to the cake in a minute. Questions come through on the AECG, I
did reference them earlier. Has the AECG been involved
and consulted on the RAP? We have reached out to the AECG and
briefed them on this process, they wished us well on this, but we look forward to really working
closely with the AECG, particularly around a new engagement and a new arrangement with them, a new undertaking with them that takes us
through the years ahead. They are very important partners in all the work
we’re doing with Aboriginal students in our schools, and their network is very very powerful and
very important all around the state. Finally, I think this is just a question
about… You know, it’s an education department. Why aren’t schools involved in this
process? So where do schools fit in to this work? CLAIRE BEATTIE: Eventually, obviously, we will welcome schools into this
conversation. I think our corporate area was a great place
to start, it’s a smaller group, but it’s also a group that we can start cultural awareness
training without upsetting and taking them off their
job which is to be in front of students, making sure every student is known, and
valued and cared for. Also, I think it was an opportunity to really
engage with executive in the corporate area as well and ensure that we’re going from the
top-down, it was led by you. I can also say, Mark, and I hope that we
don’t embarrass you by saying this, but how amazing it is to have a Secretary come in and say… You’ve brought it from the ABC with you, but you’ve also stood in front of this and
said, “We must have this” for the reasons that you’ve just unpacked. For us, I think it’s been really refreshing to
know that we have your support on this journey, and to know that from the top-down, you’re for reconciliation and you really do
support the idea of having a culturally safe
environment for Aboriginal people. MARK SCOTT: And I think that’s what we
all aspire to, and we know as we do that, it changes us, changes this organisation. And if you change this organisation, you change the future of the country. CLAIRE BEATTIE: Absolutely. MARK SCOTT: As you said, Darren, this is a torrid, and difficult, and painful
history. We need to learn from that, and
understand that, and build a wonderful future for our kids and build a better Australia as a
consequence of this. So thanks for your time this afternoon. I bring exciting news if you are in
one of our larger regional offices, because there is cake there for you,
just as there is cake here for us. Wonderful colours and the artwork that
Suzanna has done which adorns the RAP is on the cake. So I’m going to ask my two colleagues here, who have been on the RAP working party,
to cut the cake. I also want to thank all members of that
working party who worked so hard to wrestle down the complexities of the issues. It’s easy for me to say this is an idea, then
the hard work starts. I want to thank Meg Montgomery and the
team that she led to get us to this point. We’re really celebrating the start with the
launch of the RAP. They’re exciting days ahead, challenges
ahead, and hopefully, great outcomes for our kids and our nation as well. So please cut the cake and enjoy your
afternoon. Thanks for being with us. CLAIRE BEATTIE: Thank you.
DARREN BELL: Thank you. Do it together? MARK SCOTT: Do it together.
CLAIRE BEATTIE: Yes. Let’s do it. MARK SCOTT: Thanks everyone.

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