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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples


The NIAA is proud to share our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), growing our reach and demonstrating our underpinning commitment to reconciliation. This builds on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet 2018-2020 Stretch RAP that the then Indigenous Affairs Group developed while in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Since the NIAA was established in 2019, we have worked hard to establish our own identity and embed this in our core business. Cultural understanding and respect are at the centre of our Values and Behaviours; it strengthens all of the work we undertake with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. Achievements since our establishment include the design and implementation of the Footprints Program, the Leadership and Development Program, and at a strategic level through the formation of the NIAA Vision and Purpose, supported by its six strategic pillars: building our influence; identifying economic and human capital development opportunities; building genuine partnerships; investing to deliver greatest benefit; using data and evidence to inform our approach; and being a capable, engaged and unified workforce. This hasn’t been without its challenges - all new organisations have to work hard to form an identity and build trust, both externally and internally. This is a continuing journey, and we will remain focused on developing our capabilities and investing in our people to promote a positive, inclusive and cohesive workplace culture.

Our RAP shapes the way the NIAA embeds reconciliation in the way we work through our HR process, our policy and program responses. It guides how we provide leadership across external stakeholders as the Agency responsible for leading the Commonwealth’s approaches to strengthen life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Actions and targets contained in this RAP demonstrate our commitment to continuously improve our efforts and achievements, and our ability to work in meaningful partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations. The NIAA strives for excellence in all we do to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to achieve their aspirations for themselves, their families and communities.

Our staff represent diverse cultures, languages and people groups from across this land and around the world. They apply this richness, depth of knowledge and experience to their work, working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. Our physical outreach is expansive; our presence is known in major cities, towns, regions and remote communities. We have direct links and contact with many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations – spanning salt water, fresh water, rain forest and desert country. It is through this extensive commitment and national presence that we are able to make a real contribution to the reconciliation of the nation.

The NIAA was borne out of multiple iterations across different Australian Government departments to become an Executive Agency committed to executing the Government’s policies to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This is our first RAP as the NIAA, and as such it is an important milestone and statement of commitment.

The NIAA expects to be challenged and we commit to challenging others while we travel along our RAP journey. It is our intention to use every opportunity to ensure that all NIAA staff position themselves as committed and professional public servants dedicated to practical action on reconciliation. Our staff are focused on continuously engaging and learning, fortifying our knowledge and allowing us to do our best work.

The NIAA’s Stretch RAP February 2022 – January 2025 was developed through extensive engagement and consultation. These consultations included 12 RAP Working Group (RAPWG) meetings from May 2020 – September 2021. The RAPWG was co-chaired by two Senior Executive Service Officers, and comprised representatives from each group across the NIAA. Approximately half of the group identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NIAA also contracted external consultant ETM Perspectives to facilitate eight focus groups.

The RAP Working Group that developed this RAP included:

  • Co-Chairs: Andrea Kelly and Rachael Jackson
  • Central Group: Henry Wilson and Virginia Varacalli
  • Corporate Group: Kane Morse and Carla Stocks
  • Eastern Group: Roz Golden and Patricia Wilkinson
  • Economic Policy and Programs Group: Gladys Willis and Kate Keating
  • Northern Australia Development Group: Darran Kennedy Organisational Performance and Change Group Jamie Crosby and Brad Kane
  • Program Performance and Delivery Group: Peter Kay, Brenton Rigney and John Maher Social Policy and Programs Group Tahlia-Rose Vanissum and Loi Lam
  • Strategic Policy Group: Michael Ohrin and Cyndee Davis
  • West and South Group: Janelle McKenzie and Chloe Wood

The RAPWG also included the membership of external Indigenous advisor, Ms Cath Brokenborough, who provided leadership and support to the working group throughout the development of the NIAA RAP. Ms Brokenborough generously gave us her time and expertise and the NIAA acknowledges her significant contribution.

The RAPWG was supported by the RAP secretariat: Natasha Brunhuber, Juliette Hubbard, Peter Hutchings, Emma Lattimore, David Lindenbaur, Lateisha Livermore and Zoe Mansfield.

NIAA’s RAPWG reports to the NIAA People and Culture Committee.

Members of the RAPWG had an important role in the development and delivery of the RAP over the life of the plan, including implementation, delivering and promoting actions to the broader Agency and working collaboratively to address challenges encountered.

There is a 2 phased approach to the NIAA RAP:

Phase 1:

Development of the RAP January 2020 – December 2021 supported by the Culture & Heritage Branch.

Phase 2:

Implementation and monitoring of the RAP February 2022 – January 2025 supported by People Branch.

Membership of the Phase 1 RAPWG included NIAA staff from multiple levels and backgrounds, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff.

RAPWG members were nominated to represent the Agency, and made responsible for consultation and championing initiatives within their respective Group. Each Group was asked to nominate 2 staff from their Group, one was selected by the RAP Chair as a member of the RAPWG, and the other was the Group’s proxy representative. Members were expected to promote and undertake assigned actions that fell within their responsibility.

The RAPWG has been refreshed to implement the RAP and the principles of reconciliation within the day to day business of the NIAA across all business areas. The refreshed RAPWG includes representation from Canberra and across the Regional Presence. The RAPWG is co- chaired by two Senior Executive Service Officers and is comprised of Indigenous and non- Indigenous NIAA staff members. It is intended that the RAPWG meet no less than four times per year and be refreshed every 12 months throughout the life of the RAP to encourage ongoing engagement across the NIAA.

Cultural understanding and respect are at the centre of our Values and Behaviours; it strengthens all of the work we undertake with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.