Insights

Taking Action on Reconciliation

By July 2, 2020 No Comments
By William Wu

Melior Investment Management acknowledges the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of this nation. We acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which our company is located and where we conduct our business. We pay our respects to Ancestors and Elders, past, present and emerging.

By William Wu

Melior Investment Management acknowledges the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of this nation. We acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which our company is located and where we conduct our business. We pay our respects to Ancestors and Elders, past, present and emerging.

Why is Reconciliation Important?

Reconciliation is not just about strengthening the bond between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, it is also about closing social gaps and flourishing as a nation. It is about understanding and accepting the wrongs done to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, raising awareness of our history and our national identity, reducing prejudice and discrimination and most importantly – acknowledging that all these issues are interrelated. Reconciliation is also a mechanism to reduce systemic racism, and plays some part towards reducing violence towards Indigenous people from the criminal justice system.

One of the ways in which a Company can engage with the broader community about these issues and to foster reconciliation is through a Reconciliation Action Plan 1 (“RAP”). Through Melior’s ESG analysis, we often find companies who have adopted a RAP value openness, equality and engagement with not only their employees, but the broader community in which they operate.

“I can’t breathe”

Like George Floyd, David Dungay Jnr uttered these final words in 2015. The Dunghutti man died in Sydney’s Long Bay jail whilst guards held him face down in his cell. The Black Lives Matter rallies currently being held globally is a significant moment in history. People, regardless of race, are uniting together and calling for the end of systemic racism with all the threats of violence and actual violence that accompany it.  Now is the time to honour those who died unnecessarily, speak their name and call for change so no one else has to face this treatment. Let us come together and learn from one another to bridge the gap of cultural divide.

The 2030 goal:

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (‘SDGs”) specifically addresses Indigenous people in Goal 2.3 (Zero hunger) and Goal 4.5 (Quality education). However, several indirect indicators also apply including Goal 1 (No poverty), Goal 3 (Good health and well-being), Goal 8 (Decent work and economic growth) and Goal 10 (Reduced inequality). The SDGs recognise that sustainable prosperity requires addressing social disparity in all countries which includes education, health, social protection and job opportunities whilst protecting the planet – creating ‘shared value’.  As Indigenous people lag on most of these factors both in Australia and globally, they should be a focal point as we work towards the 2030 goals2.

How can Corporates play a role?

RAPs set out actions that support an organisation’s reconciliation commitment both internally and externally. It includes practical actions that contribute to  respectful relationships and create meaningful opportunities for Indigenous peoples through a structured approach to advance reconciliation. RAPs can create positive social change in not only workplaces, through employment opportunities, but also in the broader community by creating relationships with Indigenous businesses and customers.

There are four types of RAPs; Reflect, Innovate, Stretch and Elevate, each reflecting the different stages of an organisation’s journey towards reconciliation (refer to table)

The most recent RAP Impact Measurement Report released by Reconciliation Australia for the period 2017 – 2018 showed that organisations with RAPs helped close the social gap by:

  • Investing $350m in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students through educational scholarships ($24m in 2016 – 2017);
  • Procuring $635m of goods and services from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses ($266m in 2016 – 2017);
  • Employing 41,186 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in organisations with a RAP (24,275 in 2016 – 2017);
  • Providing $29m in pro bono support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, organisations and communities ($25m in 2016 – 2017).

Examples:

  • Westpac (which has been ranked ‘Elevate’ status by Reconciliation Australia), noted the positive flow-on effects of providing employment opportunities which leads to greater economic wellbeing in the broader community. They also see RAPs as an important long-term employee retention strategy which helps prolong lasting economic independence. Westpac also acknowledges the importance of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (“UNDRIP”). UNDRIP is the most comprehensive international framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous peoples around the world.
  • Wesfarmers (which has been ranked ‘Stretch’ status by Reconciliation Australia) aims to create equal opportunities for all. As one of Australia’s largest employers, this can help provide significant employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. As at 30 June 2019, they employed 1,755 (1.8% of their total Australian workforce) and has aims to improve this to 3% by 2022. Wesfarmers sees their RAP as an overarching engagement strategy – “goal of a workplace that reflects diversity of the communities that we serve.”
  • Telstra (which has been ranked ‘Elevate’ status by Reconciliation Australia), has noted the importance of the SDGs in their RAP’s key pillars – Relationship, Respect and Opportunities. Their key focus areas of Building a Digital Future, Lifting Economic Participation and Cultural Responsiveness and Engagement is directly linked to a core pillar and SDG. Their RAP highlights the importance of Telstra “to recognise our history and past interaction with Indigenous Australia, both negative and positive, and being truthful about this as a basis to move forward”.

Melior's Response

Melior encourages reconciliation at all levels – both public and private sectors to close the economic and social gaps so we can flourish together to achieve the 2030 goal. To achieve this we must address the social disparity between Indigenous Australians and Non-Indigenous Australians. We believe that RAPs provide a useful framework for companies to develop their reconciliation strategy and therefore advocate for corporates to adopt a RAP given the positive social change it can create not only within an organisation, but with the broader community.

Our portfolio has a higher proportion of companies with RAPs compared to the ASX300 (21% for Melior vs 10% for the ASX300) using Melior estimates as at 31 December 2019.

This content is for general information only. In preparing and publishing this content, Melior Investment Management Pty Ltd (ACN 629 013 896, authorised representative no. 001274055) does not seek to recommend any particular investment decision or investment strategy and has not taken into account the individual objectives, financial situation or needs of any investor. Investors should consider these matters, and whether they need independent professional financial advice, before making any investment decision.