In November 2020 Reconciliation Australia initiated an investigation of Telstra’s Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).
The investigation was in light of Telstra’s admission of unconscionable business practices in relation to 108 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers, by five licensed outlets, and a proposed settlement with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The business practices uncovered through the ACCC investigation are deeply troubling. Reconciliation Australia expressed to Telstra extreme concern about both the impact of the individual business practices on vulnerable Indigenous consumers and the failure to respond quickly to address the problem.
In addition to our specific concerns about the unconscionable business practices, we expressed disappointment at Telstra’s failure to engage appropriately or effectively with Reconciliation Australia throughout the course of the ACCC investigation.
At no time did Telstra alert us to the complaints covered by the ACCC investigation (1 January, 2016 – 27 August, 2018). They were also aware of the ACCC investigation from March 2019 and did not notify Reconciliation Australia in advance of the public announcement of the proposed settlement on 26 November 2020
Reconciliation Australia takes our relationship with our RAP partners seriously, and we have undertaken a considered, clear and fair process.
Our investigation concluded that Telstra has not met its own aspirations to be a leader in the reconciliation movement nor the expectations of an Elevate RAP partner.
As a consequence of our investigation, Reconciliation Australia has revoked Telstra’s Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan.
Telstra’s actions to take responsibility for the unconscionable business practices and address the financial impact on all impacted individuals are promising first steps on a long road to rebuilding relationships and restoring trust.
We are encouraged by the robust long-term commitments and accountability in their proposed settlement with the ACCC. They have also demonstrated a strong commitment to restoring their relationship with Reconciliation Australia and the RAP network.
Taking this into account, we have invited Telstra to discuss the development of a new RAP that addresses the concerns raised by the ACCC investigation.
This will not be an Elevate RAP.
We will remain in conversation with them as we do with all RAP partners and hope this is an important turning point in their reconciliation journey.
Reconciliation Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) program contributes to advancing reconciliation by supporting organisations to develop respectful relationships and create meaningful opportunities with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
A Reconciliation Action Plan includes ongoing, measurable actions over time to achieve better outcomes for organisations, communities, and specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Respectful actions are at the heart of the RAP program and of reconciliation.
The program supports workplaces to develop one of four types of RAP—Reflect, Innovate, Stretch or Elevate.
Each of these RAP types contains minimum elements required from an organisation to build strong relationships, respect and opportunities within your organisation and community
Of the 1100 organisations—large, small, private sector, public and NGOs—with an active RAP, 21 of them hold an Elevate RAP.