The Australia Council for the Arts recently launched its second Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) – Innovate 2013 – 2015. We asked questions of staff who had either been directly involved with the RAP or held roles that would influence the RAP.
What does the RAP mean to the individual and for the Australia Council?
The RAP is one of many things that is taking place and needs to take place to properly recognise the critical importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture in the Australian arts sector and Australian society. It is important to acknowledge that there are many views about reconciliation and some First Nations people are not in favour of this approach. It can be seen as a token gesture that does little to address the issues at an organisational or a personal level. However it can also be seen as a positive approach that does lead to greater awareness and understanding of the complex issues we face and to bring about change. There is great interest and genuine commitment within the Australia Council staff to confront these difficult issues. To understand about the history of invasion and colonization, and to learn more about the stories, art and culture of this land on which we live.
Over time has there been a change in the organisation in terms of the way people engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture?
There has always been a strong focus on supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture at the Australia Council, however we have recognized that we should do more to demonstrate our commitment to reconciliation at the organizational level. The RAP sets a road map for how we can change the way we work and the way we do business to recognize the valuable role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people play across our organization and in our community. Some of the changes are quite simple while others will take more time to embed and build into our organizational culture. However all of these actions will make a significant difference in the long term and demonstrate to the arts community that we are serious about keeping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture strong.
The Australia Council has grown over the past 7 years in its understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture. When the RAP process started it was approached by staff at the time from a very naive understanding. Since 2010, the Australia Council had to undergo a deep reflective process that has ensured that everyone at Council has an understanding of the important role, our organisation and staff, can contribute to the conversation about reconciliation from a cultural/national narrative perspective.
What makes the Council’s RAP important now and where do you see it going?
Reconciliation is about individuals and communities, listening and learning and being open to different ways of doing things. It is a living process that involves many people, ideas and perspectives. It will always be a work in progress because there will always be new challenges. If we continue to approach such challenges with courage and understanding we will discover new knowledge and new ways of doing things. This will ensure that the Australia Council’s RAP and reconciliation in Australia more broadly, remains dynamic, contemporary and alive.
The Australia Council’s RAP is extremely important now, we’re at a point in time where we’re moving from a reflective internal process to a proactive external process working with the wider arts community. The Arts play an important role in the conversation about the national narrative, and reconciliation is a fundamental component of this conversation. The Australia Council is in a particularly unique position to work with the wider arts community to lead this conversation as we have relationships with individual artists, arts organsiations and community groups across Australia.