Samaritans launches new Reconciliation Action Plan

Samaritans services operate on the lands of the Awabakal, Biripi, Darkinjung, Dunghutti , Gumbaynggir, Kamilaroi, Wanaruah, Worimi, and Waridjuri nations.

Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.

This week Samaritans launched our Samaritans RAP 2018. What follows is an excerpt from CEO, Brad Webb’s speech delivered at the launch event.

In May 2017, over 250 Delegates gathered at the 2017 First Nations National Constitutional Convention and made an historic statement from the heart in the hope of improving the lives of future generations.

On the last day of the convention – the 26th of May – the Referendum Council spoke deliberately and directly to the people of Australia and released the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an extraordinary document. If you are curious in the long history of how it came to be I commend the Griffith Review 60, and in particular Professor Megan Davis’ essay, ‘The Long Road to Uluru’.

The essence of the Uluru Statement is a sequenced reform known as Voice-Treaty-Truth.

  • Voice – the establishment of a First Nation’s Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
  • Treaty – Makarrata: the coming together after a struggle.
  • Truth – the Makarrata Commission to supervise a progress of agreement making and truth-telling about history.

The Uluru Statement was the culmination of the most proportionately significant consultation process that had ever been undertaken with First Peoples. The 12 national dialogues engaged 1200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates, out of a population of around 600,000 nationally.

Almost two years of planning and consultation passed between the Kirribilli Statement of July 2015, which laid the foundation for the formation of the Referendum Council, and the release of the Uluru Statement in May 2017.

I share my reflections on the Uluru Statement for three reasons:

  1. Just over a year ago, Samaritans publicly declared its support for the First Nations peoples’ Uluru Statement from the Heart and joined many others in calling on the Australian Parliament to make this a national priority. I reaffirm that support here today.
  2. Like recognition, reconciliation is a process that requires the full support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This means a commitment to listening, to learning, and to acting.
  3. Reconciliation at Samaritans will take time and broad engagement. It will not happen quickly, and it will not happen with hard work. And that will require the whole organisation to be part of the journey.

Our Reconciliation Action Plan is built on four platforms:

  1. Sharing respectful, mutual relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, community organisations, community members, and young people.
  2. Demonstrating respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures, histories, and lived experiences.
  3. Providing opportunities to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, both staff and community members.
  4. Strong governance and tracking progress.

I am proud to be here today and publicly declare my commitment, as CEO of Samaritans, to the delivery of the Samaritans Reconciliation Action Plan. I commend the work of the Reconciliation Action Committee and thank them for their leadership.

Later today we will hear about the artwork that graces the Samaritans Reconciliation Action Plan. I would like to thank Chontelle Hayes for her beautiful painting. In thinking about today I have reflected on the underlying wish expressed by Chontelle, when she said:

‘The white and the black run into each other. It would be great for this to come true so there’s not a division between black and white.’

I recognise that our plan is just the beginning – in fact it is described by Reconciliation Australia as a reflect plan. A Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan is designed to prepare an organisation for its reconciliation journey. As this journey continues, we will go on to develop plans that will support Samaritans to innovate, stretch, and elevate.

So today is a milestone, but not an endpoint.

The final paragraph of the Uluru Statement from the Heart states:

‘In 1967 we were counted, and in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.’

Today on behalf of the Samaritans, and in launching our Reconciliation Action Plan, I accept this invitation. Let’s start walking.

You can read the Reconciliation Action Plan in full here.