Philanthropy Australia’s Reflect RAP endorsed by Reconciliation Australia 

Vicki Norton, Director of Strategic Projects, Philanthropy Australia Fri, 21 Jul 2023

During the past year, our team has embarked on our first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). We are incredibly proud that Reconciliation Australia has endorsed our Reflect RAP and look forward to implementing the commitments outlined in this document in the next 11 months. Vicki Norton, Philanthropy Australia’s Director of Strategic Projects and RAP Implementation Lead, reflects on the journey so far. 

Philanthropy Australia chose to work within the RAP program because it provides a framework to explore our place in the ecosystem, and because it requires us to look within, both as an organisation and as individuals. A colleague once told me that learning more about the culture of Australia’s First Peoples can’t help but change us fundamentally, and this is certainly true. The more our team learns, the more we connect as humans and relate to one another through our personal, rather than our professional identities. We are also keenly aware of the talent, strength and resilience of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and leaders, and grateful for the time, generosity and wisdom our partners choose to share with us to achieve “more and better giving” for First Nations communities in Australia.  

In writing our Reflect RAP, we have been guided by a group of exceptional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders from all over Australia. Their expertise has helped us to identify what we seek to achieve as an organisation and more broadly in our role as a peak body. Philanthropy Australia started its first Indigenous Affinity Group in 1999 and has since worked with sector partners on the Right Way, Wrong Way, Which Way and Journey to Give, Stand and Respect reports that outlined recommendations for grant-makers on how to give respectively and impactfully to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations. Self-determination, building respectful and sustainable relationships, and committing to grant processes that are guided by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ culture and leadership are at the heart of these reports.  

In writing and beginning to implement our RAP, the Staff RAP Working Group have become champions and allies. RAPs require an all-of-organisation approach and a willingness to be curious, learn and act. In all of our offices around Australia, the Staff RAP Working Group are engaging with colleagues, Philanthropy Australia members and the broader sector to share our learnings. Internally, we are improving our systems to develop respectful relationships and increase opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.    

Front cover of Philanthropy Australia's Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan February 2023-May 2024 featuring artwork by Jenna Oldaker and logos from Philanthropy Australian and Reconciliation Australia
Philanthropy Australia’s Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan features artwork by Jenna Oldaker

Perhaps most importantly, our RAP and commitment to First Nations Engagement is championed by our leadership. Throughout the process of writing the RAP and establishing the governance and systems to support its implementation, our CEO Jack Heath and Board Co-Chair Amanda Miller have led and championed this work. When drawing on expertise from the calibre of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals that we have the honour of working alongside, the engagement of leadership at the highest level demonstrates respect and commitment. This is something that I’ve been most proud of, and grateful for, as we’ve moved towards reconciliation. 

The Reflect RAP is the next step in Philanthropy Australia’s journey to achieve a generous and inclusive Australia by promoting more and better giving for our partner Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It will help us to get our house in order, looking inward at our culture and systems to become a safe and respectful workplace. The RAP program isn’t for everyone, and the challenge for foundations is that many of the commitments required by a RAP are designed for large corporations with thousands of employees. While many are looking for a framework for self-reflection and to hold themselves to account, a RAP is often not the best fit for small teams or Executive Officers working on their own. As the peak body for Philanthropy, we would like to work with Reconciliation Australia to consider the philanthropy sector, and how the RAP program could be adapted to help different types of organisations be culturally aware and respectful.  

We invite you to join us on our journey, and we’ll continue to share what we learn with our members and partners. If you would like to speak with me about writing and implementing a RAP, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.