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A shared understanding of reconciliation

In line with this year’s National Reconciliation Week theme — "more than a word, reconciliation takes action" — one leading Queensland utility is working on developing a shared understanding of the word within its business to enable authentic and effective progress.

Yvonne Lewandowski, Urban Utilities Leadership, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, said one of the key learnings the utility has gained through its reconciliation journey is ensuring everyone within the organisation shares a common understanding of what reconciliation means.

“Reconciliation can mean different things to different people. We’ve discovered a need to establish a common understanding of what reconciliation is for our organisation — one that all our people can connect with. The word needs to resonate meaningfully for all of us,” she said.

“This involves understanding that reconciliation is a journey and it takes many shapes and forms. We want to look beyond the easy go-to initiatives, ensuring that reconciliation is embedded in organisational systems and policies and processes, as well.

“It’s not just about having a Reconciliation Action Plan [RAP]; it's about making it part of our values and ensuring we are living and breathing that RAP through the way we work.”

Reflections and innovation

Urban Utilities completed its Reflect RAP at the end of 2020.

“Our Reflect RAP was really about establishing an understanding of how we engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees and communities. We also took a look at how many of our people identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander,” Lewandowski said.

“It helped us get an understanding of where we are at as an organisation and set us up for future actions. We are currently developing our second plan, our Innovate RAP.

“With the Innovate RAP, we are looking to formalise and strengthen our commitment through connections with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within our organisation and our community.”

With Urban Utilities’ Innovate RAP likely to formally launch in September 2021, Lewandowski said the utility is now focusing on ways to expand on embedding reconciliation more comprehensively within itss operations and procedures.

“We will be building on initiatives that we already have in place and looking at how we can further engage with and foster constructive relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” Lewandowski said.

“We have a RAP committee, which is cross-business and cross-functional. We are reaching into all parts of our business to understand how we can embed reconciliation.”

Lewandowski said the Innovate RAP will also focus on building cultural awareness and working towards taking a more proactive approach to procurement and community consultation.

“We are going to continue to build cultural awareness within our organisation by development of further learning modules that include a focus on the culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People,” she said.

“This is about achieving a deeper understanding of the journey that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community has been through so that we can work with them more effectively.”

Lewandowski said organisational culture is also an important focus and Urban Utilities is committed to ensuring a workplace that is inclusive and supportive.

“It’s crucial for us to build reconciliation into our broader diversity and inclusion strategies and our organisational culture,” she said.

“Urban Utilities is committed to ensuring that the people that work with and for us are conscious of what reconciliation means and how it can be achieved.”