Reconciliation Week 2022: Wrestling with our role in the Indigenous Business Sector

Anna Moegerlein, Deputy CEO, TDi

In light of National Reconciliation Week, TDi’s Deputy CEO Anna shares some of the unfolding story around our work in the Indigenous Business sector: What are the challenges we are wrestling with as an organisation, what are our responsibilities, and where do we go from here?

 

 

 

A good friend of mine, Ash, is a Bwgcolman (pronounced Bookamun) Ewamian woman. She first worked with TDi three years ago and she’s now serving on our Board. One thing I love about Ash is her honesty. Recently she said to our team,

 

“Reconciliation is about you guys doing your bit… it’s about knowing what is yours to do. It’s not about me doing things, or other First Nations people doing things to further reconcile.”

 

Basically, she was saying: your side stuffed things up.

She was saying that the onus is on us, as non-Indigenous folk, to be brave and take the steps to offer reconciliation. That means being ready for, and inviting in, truth-telling. It means stepping back and knowing when it’s not our turn to speak. It means opening doors for Indigenous businesses, and it means speaking out against racism and the ‘saviour narratives’ that still dominate much of the social sector. And of course, these actions need to be a practice, all year round.

For the last couple of years, our partners and our alumni have said that we have done some good work in the First Nations business sector. But in our eyes, if we continue to work as we have been, we don’t feel like we would be fully realising ‘what is ours to do’. We want to integrate our responsibility for reconciliation into the TDi business model.

 

There are two obvious factors for us to consider: First Nations voice, and First Nations presence.

 

Firstly, to date, most of our projects have been led by non-Indigenous team members. Sometimes our team is entirely non-Indigenous, and at other times we’ve been lucky to have First Nations partners and associates like Tanyah Nasir, Kylie-lee Bradford and Ashleigh Bartley on our team. But still, the leadership of TDi has sat with a non-Indigenous team member. We’re not satisfied with this – we know we’re missing out on opportunities to do better work. We’ve seen glimpses of what happens in our work – in both the Pacific and Australia – when our Indigenous friends are leading. We want more of that in our work.

The second issue is that our presence takes up space (and resources) that could be directed to Indigenous-owned businesses and/or an Indigenous team. To date we have only gone where we have been invited by Indigenous leaders, but that might still be taking up space!

 

So, these two pieces – having First Nations voice/power in our system, and the issue of taking up space – are what we’ve been wrestling with. We are asking: what is our role? And how might we need to change?

 

We are currently in conversation with several of our long-standing, First Nations friends to explore this further, as well as with our leadership team and Board.

We want to integrate our responsibility for reconciliation into the TDi business model. We want to be brave and generous in what we offer. Though we are in the messy middle, we are committed to walking through this process with integrity, in order to make necessary change. I am confident that we will get there, and we can’t wait to share more with you when the time is right.

 

“Though we are in the messy middle, we are committed to walking through this process with integrity.”  Anna, walking on Mirarr Country, Kakadu

 

Reconciliation Week begins May 27 and runs until June 3. The theme this year is “Be brave. Make Change”. What does that mean for you? Reconciliation Australia has some wonderful resources on their website. We encourage you to check them out, and get involved in making a difference.

Reconciliation Week May 27-June 3

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