June 13, 2017 by Claire McGuire, Holyoake

I am a proud Balladong Noongar woman from the Wheatbelt area, and a Counsellor in Holyoake’s Northam office.

People often ask me about what ‘reconciliation’ means. I like to explain the reconciliation process in simple terms: The river is the river and the sea is the sea. Salt water and fresh, two separate domains. Each has its own complex patterns, origins, stories. Even though they come together they will always exist in their own right. This is Reconciliation.

So why it is important for organisations to have a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP)? I believe it is an expression of respect. It shows they care enough about the people who work for them and the communities that they work in and want to make it better. It shows that they recognise the hardships that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffered.

A RAP provides the foundations to create cultural safety in our working environments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. An environment which is safe for people, where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience, of learning together with dignity and true listening.

I believe the most important thing about cultural safety is that it is a process, and achieving it requires acceptance and respect of cultural and individual difference by everyone. A RAP reflects a deep respect for traditional owner’s cultural diversity and nurtures a feeling of belonging and acceptance. It also proves that the barriers between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people are truly starting to come down and we are closing the gap.

These are things that make me comfortable to bring my whole self to work and start to move away from having to walk in two worlds.

I am proud to be part Holyoake’s RAP team as the organisation implements our action plan and demonstrates a genuine commitment to reconciliation. This journey will be one that we will look back on and be proud of how far we have come.