Our first step towards reconciliation

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How and why Hardie Grant Media is working towards a Reconciliation Action Plan.

Sophie Hull

Reconciliation is a wide concept. It’s not just about recognition and legislation, it’s about changing the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. We realise that as a company, we’ve only just begun our journey.  

At Hardie Grant, we’re working towards a Reconciliation Action Plan. This is not a set-and-forget document or box to tick, it’s an ongoing process. There are four stages and we’re currently on the first one: Reflect. We receive templates, examples and support along the way from Reconciliation Australia. Once our RAP is accredited, we’ll need to get re-accredited every year.

The journey started for us when we took part in the Indigenous Intern Program CareerTrackers in 2017. Our intern made some recommendations to the business, including suggesting we create a RAP.

Our co-founder Fiona Hardie is championing the RAP across the business. She’s joined by a five-person committee from different offices and parts of the business. She explains that it’s both a process and series of actions needed to encourage the business and individuals to make a contribution towards bringing about equity for Indigenous Australians.

“We were already doing some of the things the RAP process encourages; we have a statement recognising the traditional owners of the land in both our Melbourne and Sydney offices, we have the intern program, and our corporate charity is the Indigenous Literacy Foundation,” she says.

“But we thought the RAP process would force us to be more conscious and active about doing what we can do to improve opportunities for Indigenous Australians.”

Children browsing books at the Great Book Swap in Melbourne
As part of our involvement with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, we attended the Great Book Swap earlier this year, which helped raise money to buy books for remote Indigenous communities. Photo: ILF

One of our ongoing objectives is to raise awareness about Indigenous issues. During Reconciliation Week 2018 the Sydney office had a visit from Indigenous Elder Uncle Jimmy from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council. He talked about Indigenous culture, language and tradition, and dispelled some myths. His presentation included information on early astrology, tribal boundaries of the local area and some traditional exercises. We also attended a smoking ceremony for NAIDOC week at Screen Australia’s neighbouring office. A smoking ceremony is an ancient ceremony believed to have cleansing properties and the ability to ward off bad spirits.

In the Melbourne office, Hardie Grant Books commissioning editor Marg Bowman gave a talk about her time living and working with Central Australian Aboriginal organisations in Alice Springs, with a particular focus on the Central Land Council working on Every Hill Got A Story, published in 2015.

At Hardie Grant we're proud of the number of Indigenous authors and illustrators we publish, and the books we have released on Aboriginal issues. For example, Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton is a travel guide to Indigenous Australia and helps raise awareness of sites of significance and explain their traditional meaning. We also work with artist Bronwyn Bancroft on a beautiful array of children’s books, and she did an incredible painting for one of our inflight magazine covers in 2016.

“I think building knowledge of Indigenous culture and providing a platform for Indigenous Australians to tell their stories can help to create change, and as publishers we're in a great position to help with that,” says Fiona.

If you have any thoughts on how we can strengthen our relationships with Indigenous communities going forward, please feel free to get in touch with our team. We would love to hear your ideas.

Sophie Hull, head of editorial, Sydney

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