The launch of the Reconciliation Action Plan is a great achievement for the AILA which sets a new position and direction for the Institute. The ‘Connection to Country’ Committee should be congratulated on guiding this initiative. As the Plan notes ‘this is the beginning of a national journey to encourage all members of our profession to better understand and respect the intrinsic values of country and spirituality.’ It’s a great privilege to be involved with AILA and practicing at a time when this journey is commencing.
The RAP is easy to read, so I would encourage you to take a few minutes to do so. It sets out the goals but critically, also lists tasks and steps to take us forward. A RAP should be understood as the strategy for action and a first step rather than an end in and of itself. Therefore, I thought it worthwhile to set out some of the actions we need to be taking in NSW to ensure we live up to the aspirations of the Plan.
There are immediate and practical state responsibilities listed in the Plan which I have broken up into three themes. I see these actions broadly as creating and nurturing a network of individuals within AILA NSW, connecting this group to a broader indigenous community and bringing these two networks together through projects and events on country.
The first task is to investigate opportunities for AILA members to become advocates of the RAP within their State Chapters. Please get in contact with the NSW Executive, or directly to Margot if you are interested in being identified as a ‘Connection to Country’ champion within your workplace. The value of AILA is its potential to connect likeminded individuals such that there is a network across the industry well represented in all forms of practice.
The second step is to connect to the wider Aboriginal network that exists beyond AILA. We need to connect with appropriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations looking for joint ventures and partnerships, or for pro bono support or secondment and community capacity building opportunities from AILA members. It’s important that we explore and establish a record for members of the Traditional Owners of the lands and waters at the State Chapter level and that we develop a list of local Traditional Owners of the lands and waters within our organisation’s sphere of influence. This simple act of connecting networks will allow us to communicate to AILA members a list of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses that can be used to procure goods and services. Better understanding country will also enable AILA members to find Traditional Custodians who speak for the country of where their project site is located, and their people’s spirituality at appropriate times.
Once we have made these connections, between individuals in our organisation as well as with the networks and country beyond, we can draw these together and develop initiatives for increasing awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories and achievements within our organisation and within our projects and daily lives.
The RAP aims to include at least one cultural enrichment event annually at the State Chapter level. In NSW we are underway with the development of The Ochre Grid and are working towards holding an event in this latter half of 2018 where we will be introducing the concepts behind the Ochre Grid and holding a seminar and workshop to understand better the ways in which we as design professionals can engage with Aboriginal people to work with country, history and living aboriginal culture in and through our projects. This event will be an opportunity to come together, reflect on how we work now and begin to remake the ways we can create deeper connections to country through our practice as landscape architects, in the spirit of reconciliation.