Our first steps towards ReconciliationAt Torrens University Australia, we officially commenced our Reconciliation journey in 2020 with the launch of our first Reconciliation Action Plan.
There are four RAP types – Reflect, Innovate, Stretch and Elevate. With the guidance and endorsement of Reconciliation Australia, we launched our first Reflect RAP in 2020.
Two years on, this initial RAP has laid the foundation for future reconciliation initiatives at Torrens University.
Through this plan, we have taken our first steps towards building a foundation that enables us to drive reconciliation and, as an organisation, ensuring that we are inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture.
Where are we now
Like many other organisations, our reconciliation journey has not been without its challenges and disruptions, like the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, despite that, we have managed to thrive and acknowledge and pay respects to First Nations people.
We have focused on building a sense of belonging and connectedness in places and spaces. We were courageous enough to create safe spaces for people to have deep and meaningful conversations about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture and also raise awareness of the importance of culture and its inclusivity into everything we do.
In 2021, staff were invited to join ‘Yarning Circles’, coming together for thought-provoking conversations focused on four key dimensions of reconciliation: race relations; equality and equity; institutional integrity; unity and historical acceptance. The yarns unpacked the challenges facing our Indigenous communities and delved deeply into the importance of cultural respect, cultural connection, and cultural safety.
Our students have expanded their understanding of First Nations culture by playing a significant role in designing cultural perspectives into our newly opened Surry Hills Campus. By taking them on a journey of wayfinding and developing ideas of thinking based on eight Aboriginal ways of learning, students were able to interpret their understanding of First Nations culture and how they could tell this story through art and designs on campus.
We have also expanded our reconciliation journey into community, building connections and partnerships, and highlighting the importance of story – the telling and sharing of lived experience. On National Sorry Day last year, I joined a panel discussion, together with my mother, Sylvia Akusah and my Uncle, Richard Campbell – both survivors of the stolen generation – who shared deeply personal stories about their experiences. My brother, Ivan Morris, spoke about the intergenerational trauma that continues to impact our people and our communities. The moving discussion highlighted that the impacts of government policies to forcibly remove Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their homes and communities continue to be felt today.
Champions for change
Since we launched our Reflect RAP in 2020, we have led with care and stepped up to deliver on our promise to contribute to Australia’s journey towards reconciliation and by doing good with respect and acknowledgment towards First Nations people. But there is more work to be done.
In 2022, we are seeking to develop and implement our second Reflect RAP, focussing on our relationships, respect, opportunities and governance.
We will embed governance structures that support our RAP actions and ensure that we deliver on them; we will continue our Yarning Circles and we will continue to align with our strategic goals to increase cultural awareness, and make Indigenous business part of everything that we do.
A key part of this will be engaging even more of our staff and students in our reconciliation journey and making them our champions for change.