Taking actions towards Reconciliation

Burnet Institute

27 May, 2021

The 2021 theme ‘More than a word. Reconciliation takes action’ urges for braver and more impactful action.

National Reconciliation Week 2021: Taking Action

At the start of National Reconciliation Week 2021, Burnet Institute reaffirms its commitment to working together to further the journey towards a fully reconciled country.

2021 marks 20 years of Reconciliation Australia and nearly 30 years since Australia’s formal Reconciliation process commenced.

This year’s theme for National Reconciliation Week ‘More than a word. Reconciliation takes action’ urges for braver and more impactful action.

To this end, Burnet Institute is moving forward with an organisational Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) which lays out practical actions that will drive the Institute’s contribution to Reconciliation both internally and externally, with respect to the communities the Institute works with.

Burnet Program Manager and RAP Committee Member, Troy Combo, said National Reconciliation Week was a time to reflect, and a reminder that all Australians have a part to play in Reconciliation.

“In playing our part we collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures,” Mr Combo said.

Mr Combo said the Institute had submitted its draft RAP to Reconciliation Australia for their consideration.

“We’re also in the process of recruiting a RAP Program Manager to ensure that we translate our RAP into real actions,” Mr Combo said.

Below are some of these actions.

Engaging and building relationships with local Aboriginal communities

Burnet RAP Committee Member, Alexander Thomas, is consulting with local Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung representatives to gain a greater appreciation of their understanding of Reconciliation, and how they see a good Reconciliation partner acting.

“It’s about us trying to establish some guidelines on how we actually engage with community with the research that we do,” Mr Thomas said.

“If we do want to do research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities we need to make sure the relationship that we have is built on trust, where we’re building capacity in communities and within the Institute in as many ways as possible and letting the community lead the research.”

Mr Thomas said respectful and safe research guidelines, which are being developed in consultation with relevant communities, will be vital in building this trust and mutually beneficial relationships.

Strengthening connections with RAP committees in other organisations in the Alfred Research Alliance

Dr Stephanie Munari, also a member of Burnet’s RAP Committee, is working with other organisations across the Alfred campus to facilitate the Reconciliation journey across all organisations.

“We aim to promote and strengthen Reconciliation across the Alfred Precinct through sharing information and, where appropriate, acting together,” Dr Munari said.

She said this would involve organisations working together in support of activities around dates of significance, and increasing awareness and knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, values and historical acceptance.

“The Alfred Precinct is made up of several very different organisations, but we recognise the benefit of working together in areas that can facilitate Reconciliation in our local community,” she said.

Creating a welcoming and culturally safe workplace

Part of building trust among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities involves creating a culturally safe workplace which has a shared identity.

Burnet Research Officer, Dr Shelley Walker is coordinating a Burnet RAP project which will commission Aboriginal artwork to represent what Burnet does, and its place in Naarm (Melbourne).

“We’re really excited because this artist will be designing the work for our RAP document, and the themes will flow into the artwork in very prominent places in Burnet’s building,” Dr Walker said.

Dr Walker said it was important to follow protocols around commissioning an Aboriginal artist to ensure it was done respectfully.

“It’s about us recognising that we are on Aboriginal land at Burnet, and because art is inextricably linked to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity, culture and belonging, it’s a way for us to acknowledge our commitment to fostering respectful and meaningful relationships between Aboriginal Torres-Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians,” she said.

Victorian Aboriginal Research Accord Project

The Victorian Aboriginal Research Accord Project (VARAP) seeks to give the Victorian Aboriginal community a voice in health research ethics.

Burnet Director and CEO, Professor Brendan Crabb AC, is a member of the VARAP Advisory Group.

The proposed Victorian Aboriginal Research Accord would be an agreement between the Victorian Aboriginal community, Victorian Government, universities, medical research institutes and health services.

The Accord would act as a quality assurance mechanism to facilitate ethical health and wellbeing research, which impacts Victorian Aboriginal communities. When institutions become signatories to the Accord, they would commit to and be accountable for adopting the principles, protocols and processes within their research policies, practices, action plans and their organisational culture.

National Reconciliation Week

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

The dates for NRW remain the same each year; 27 May to 3 June. These dates commemorate two milestones in the reconciliation journey— the 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision.

Reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Burnet Institute (Australia) is located on the traditional land of the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri people and we offer our respects to the elders past and present. We recognise and respect their continued connection to and cultural heritage of this land.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Troy Combo

Program Manager, Aboriginal Health Plan, EC Australia


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