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Rejecting racism in all its forms | National Reconciliation Week | What we've achieved during COVID-19 so far

5 June 2020

Rejecting racism in all its forms

Hi everyone,

I am sure you, like me, have found the events in the US and in Australia in the past week deeply disturbing.

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has once again brought to the fore the way in which racism is ingrained in power structures within a society and the deadly consequences this can have. This is not just an American issue. George Floyd’s death at the hands of a police officer also reminds us of the unacceptable deaths of Indigenous people in custody in Australia and the ongoing racism and discrimination faced by the Indigenous community in many parts of Australian society.

In the past two weeks, the destruction of ancient sites on the lands of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people in Juukan Gorge, WA has also come to light. This and other events will be impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues, friends and families.

I am sure these events are troubling every one of us.

These issues are linked to broader issues. I was part of a live-stream webinar this week.  It was a panel discussion on the Australian National Outlook (ANO). 

“The aim of the ANO is to help identify some of the challenges we face as a nation, and outline a path towards an Australia in 2060 that has inclusive communities, globally competitive industries, and sustainable foundations in our natural resources, environment and social capital.” 

The ANO was led by CSIRO, supporting a cross-sector group of organisations including us.  Some of the findings of the ANO 2019 report are confronting. The report shows Australia is at risk of falling into a slow decline if no action is taken on its most significant economic, social and environmental challenges. However, the report also outlines the bright future we can achieve as a nation, if Australia tackles these challenges head on.

We have the opportunity – right now – to help build a future where Australia has prosperous and globally competitive industries, inclusive and enabling communities, sustainable natural resources and strong public and civic institutions.  Rebuilding trust and cohesion were seen as cornerstones of Australia’s future and this is what we discussed in the webinar.

And of course, this is all connected to the events of this week in Australia and in the US as often these issues go to the heart of what entrenches disadvantage and embeds racism.

National Reconciliation Week

I hope you spent some time reflecting on reconciliation in Australia, and managed to join some of the events planned for National Reconciliation Week.

I hope this week will continue to inspire and enable all of us to talk about reconciliation, build relationships, trust and respect between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. 

It certainly made me ask questions, maybe it did the same for you? I hope that we can all continue to move reconciliation from the head to the heart in the journeys we are all on.

If you missed Reconciliation Australia's panel discussion '20 years on: Crossing Bridges for Reconciliation' last week, you can still watch the video of the discussion here. Thanks to everyone who participated and shared their experiences and comments.

What we've achieved during COVID-19 so far

With the easing of the COVID-19 restrictions, I had a look back at how we’ve been working differently over the last 10 weeks in the COVID-19 context. It’s a collective effort we should celebrate. Here are just a few examples.

As of May, we’ve supported around 65,000 people directly through quarantine and isolation.

We supported around 104,000 of those who are on temporary visas with emergency relief support information and referrals in 18 languages. We are now ramping up to support many more with tangible support.

Our COVID Collective podcasts have had over 1,200 listens, comprised of four episodes featuring experts, sports stars and Red Cross volunteers. We’ve made nearly 39,000 calls to over 13,500 supporters, checking-in and keeping them informed. And we’ve engaged over 700 volunteers in our humanitarian response to COVID-19. We have over 750 Digital Advocates and 20 young volunteers leading Instagram TV to support others, sharing experiences and ideas, with 6,000 registering interest to volunteer with us since the bushfires and over 3,000 on-boarded across the organisation.

Our corporate, philanthropic partners and government have pledged to assist with our COVID-19 response and we’ve formed 15 new national partnerships with corporates or organisations during this time.  

Our staff have also provided good feedback, with our recent Pulse survey showing that 89% of you feel supported and confident to continue working differently. We’ve also introduced new digital products and capabilities like bringing forward our digital plans through our digital first aid which offers online courses and webinars, identifying key general skills across the organisation through our Skills Assessment and introducing Redtasker which pairs teams who need help with staff offering to help to respond to changing demands across the organisation.

This list is far from exhaustive, but it reflects just how amazing each one of you are, achieving so much in such a short time.

And this is just in the COVID-19 context.

For every achievement there are teams of you making it happen directly and others doing what’s needed to make it possible. Thank you.

You can find more stories of what we’ve been doing during the pandemic on our website.

Lastly, I’d like to share this wonderful news coverage on the work that the Cairns Community Connect and Hubs Team have been doing during COVID-19, led by team leader Ronnie Burns.

Talk to you soon.