Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander inclusion

Doing business together – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Inclusion in the Australian Co-operative and Mutual Sector

When the BCCM engaged the authors of this report to undertake the third research project in a tripartite series examining diversity and inclusion in Australian co-operative and mutual enterprises (CMEs) there was optimism and excitement that the team would deliver an impactful piece of research.

From inception, the research methodology was developed to be inclusive of the voice of the community that the report seeks to investigate. This has proved to be instrumental in the conclusions reached.

The purpose of this project was to frame the challenge of inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities within the CME sector in Australia. The Doing Business Together report reaches a more ambitious conclusion; that CMEs and the CME sector can go further.

Adoption of a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is critical for our sector and members. However, the community of co-operatives and mutuals can go further.

We can take our principles and embed them as a broader philosophy of inclusion that improves access to employment opportunities for First Nations people but also shares ownership and facilitates economic participation.

More than that, the report concludes that we should promote different forms of ownership, especially shared ownership that reflects the culture, and embraces the aspirations of Australia’s First Nations people for their communities.

This report brings together the knowledge of Aboriginal representatives from Australian co-operatives and mutuals, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous CME leaders to investigate the state of play for Indigenous inclusion and to frame the possibilities for the future. It raises questions and new opportunities for Australian CMEs to do business in a more inclusive way and to support Aboriginal people to grow their own CMEs.

The report concludes that CMEs and the CME sector have a huge opportunity to engage in transmission of the CME business model for the social and economic empowerment of Indigenous Australians.

It’s a calling to come together, within our organisations and beyond them. Our aim is to be doing business together.

Thank you to the researchers and academics who contributed to the report and to the community leaders who led the way. Thanks also to our members who participated in the consultation and shared their insights through the Reference Group.

More information

Report foreward

During 2019 I was privileged to present RAC’s third Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). This is a significant step on our journey which extends our commitment to reconciliation and builds on the work led by my predecessor, Terry Agnew.

As the current Chair of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM), Terry delivered our first Reflect RAP more than seven years ago.

Our organisation and our people have reflected on our cultural awareness and on our relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We have implemented many small, but meaningful changes to internal processes including how we communicate our commitment to reconciliation.

  • In our business operations we endeavour to have a positive impact on Aboriginal communities, through procurement with Indigenous businesses and delivery of our services such as a road safety education to remote schools and a Cultural Centre at RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort.
  • Through the leadership of our people, we aim to build relationships of respect and opportunities to contribute to better social and economic outcomes for First Australians.
  • We have extended our focus on reinforcing the foundations of respect and understanding that we have started to build within our organisation.  As we mature our approach to reconciliation, we aim to achieve more meaningful outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities, and businesses.

As a member-owned organisation with more than 1.2 million members we are committed to our community of Western Australians and to being a driving force for positive community change.

As a founding member of the BCCM, we share this commitment to community and to all co-operative, mutual and member-owned firms. Together, we touch the lives of 8 in 10 Australians. Together we operate in nearly every industry sector, from mobility to banking, insurance, housing, health and more.

RAC was pleased to be a founding partner of this initial report, opening up a conversation about the role of the member-owned business sector and to contribute to better social and economic outcomes for First Australians.

Doing Business Together points to a path where the transformative power of the co-operative business – an intrinsically empowering, community-centric business model – can be leveraged to grow existing, and new, Aboriginal community-owned and controlled businesses. Through the concerted efforts of all Australian co-operative and mutual enterprises, we can also advance our national progress toward reconciliation.

This is the beginning of a new journey. By working together as a sector, walking side by side with First Nations peoples, we champion true reconciliation in Australia and drive a better future.

Rob Slocombe
Group Chief Executive Officer, RACWA

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander co-operatives

Co-operatives governed with and by First Nations people in Australia operate across many sectors from health services to banking, cultural and arts services and housing.

Read more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander co-operatives.

Cover art by Debra Beale

Ancient Healing, Mixed Media, 80 x 106cm

My name is Debra Beale and I am a Sydney-based Artist and Designer Maker. I come from the Palawa/Yorta Yorta and Gamilaraay/Wonnarua Nation. I was born in Surry Hills, Sydney and have been practising art  for over 25 years.

My artwork tells a narrative of my Aboriginal cultural practices, focusing on cultural heritage, family and community. It is a combination of Women’s Business, with a process of acknowledging the past and moving forward to the future. A healing journey celebrating with song and dance and laughter.

My artwork (Ancient Healing) represents an Australian Aboriginal Ancient Culture. It tells a narrative of fresh water and being on country. My homelands where I grew up, Griffith NSW. I remember as a young girl the fresh water creeks I used to swim in, they had yabbies, fish and mud mussels. I used to catch the yabbies, cook them each afternoon when I got home from school. I would share them with my brothers and sister and sometimes dad would put them into a soup if he was making one.

I went home after 20 years and there is no sign of those creeks. They are either dried up or the old rice and wheat farmers no longer need water for their properties and filled them in. The land is dry and you couldn’t imagine anyone ever living there.

My artwork represents these ancient creeks and water holes. I remember how they once were flowing and thriving with life. The colours depict the landscape and its environment which is embedded into my memory as a young girl.

Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative

Learn more about the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative – where our report cover artist,  Debra Beale, features her art.

Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative was established in 1987 by ten founding member artists. They were Euphemia Bostock, Fiona Foley, Michael Riley (dec.), Tracey Moffatt, Jeffrey Samuels, Bronwyn Bancroft, Avril Quaill, Fern Martens, Arone Meeks (dec.), and Brenda L. Croft. These ten artists were striving for recognition from the mainstream art society and their diversity was unparalleled. They challenged preconceptions around urban based Aboriginal Artists and created a unique space for themselves within the art world.

Boomalli continues to survive 34 years later and is committed to promoting and supporting artists from New South Wales Aboriginal language groups. Boomalli’s artist members are based in Sydney and in regional areas of New South Wales. Boomalli provides a space for our artists to exhibit, work and tell their stories through their art.

Watch an AroundTheWorld.coop video on the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative.

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