2013: a year of successes. 2014: a year of challenges
Among the reconciliation highlights were the election of Adam Giles to the position of NT Chief Minister therefore becoming the first Aboriginal parliamentary leader in Australia’s history; the election of Senator Nova Peris, the first Aboriginal woman to the Federal Parliament; the passing of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People’s Recognition Act through the Federal Parliament; and a heightened awareness and intolerance of racism following the abuse of Aboriginal AFL star Adam Goodes.
Reconciliation Australia’s impact continued to increase with the launch of the 500th Reconciliation Action Plan and further evidence of the impact of our RAP program with the 2014 RAP Impact Evaluation Report finding that RAP partners employ nearly 26,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and have purchased around $81 million of services from certified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses.
We have developed a new schools program which will roll out a new engagement model next year to enable schools and communities to create genuine and meaningful relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians in the thousands of Australian early childhood, primary and secondary schools.
In further evidence of the growth of reconciliation a record 700 events were listed during National Reconciliation Week 2013 across urban, regional and remote Australia.
Our Workplace Ready program was delivered to more than 40 major employers as part of an organised effort to increase the retention of Aboriginal workers and create socially inclusive workplaces.
Despite these advances we still have a long way to reach Reconciliation Australia’s goal of an equitable Australia where all her citizens can reach their full potential. The challenges for 2014 include progressing the people’s movement for constitutional recognition of Australia’s Indigenous peoples.
With the tightening of the Federal budget it is essential that we do not lose the momentum built over past years towards advancing equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Improved relationships of trust and better engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by governments and the private sector will be critical in achieving this and recent announcements of cuts to legal aid and National Congress are of concern.
Empowerment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities is vital and effective governance will remain critical to success and in 2014 we will again host the Indigenous Governance Awards with our partner BHP Billiton. These awards will once again highlight the strength and breadth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander initiative and entrepreneurship.
We are encouraged that despite a legacy of racism and disempowerment Australians from diverse backgrounds and experiences continue to play a part in our journey towards a nation built on respect, relationships and equal opportunities.