More than 3.7 million people in Australia work for, or are students of, organisations that have a RAP, according to Reconciliation Australia’s 2022 RAP Impact Report. These workers and students represent around 2,450 organisations that have committed to take meaningful action, through planned strategic initiatives, to advance reconciliation.
A RAP sets out an organisation’s voluntary commitments to change and become more inclusive through three core pillars: relationships, respect and opportunities. In creating its RAP, the organisation reviews its internal practices and considers how it might influence external people and organisations, in light of the aims of reconciliation.
The idea is to not only increase understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, rights and experiences but also create employment and procurement opportunities.
What RAPs do
Independent non-profit foundation Reconciliation Australia has been accrediting organisations that create RAPs since 2006. It also regularly reports on the progress these plans have achieved across the country.
For example, its 2022 report states that around 73,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were employed by an organisation with a RAP, compared with 61,263 in 2021. And more than $3.1 million worth of goods and services were procured by RAP organisations from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander–owned businesses, up from around $2.8 million in the previous year.
Although the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people serving on the boards of RAP organisations increased from 362 to 490, and the number in executive leadership roles rose from 388 to 491, the report concedes more work is needed to move a meaningful number of First Nations people into such decision-making roles. That’s where the processes of creating and evolving a RAP come into play.
Reconciliation Australia’s RAP Framework encompasses four types of RAPs. These enable organisations to gradually step up their reconciliation commitments internally and externally.
- Reflect – An organisation begins its ‘reconciliation journey’ with a Reflect RAP. This helps those within the organisation think about how they can develop or improve relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders such as existing and prospective employees, and business owners. The RAP sets their vision for reconciliation. After forming a RAP Working Group, they prepare business cases for future reconciliation activities. These might include providing cultural awareness training for all employees, or seeking out Indigenous businesses when procuring goods and services. This RAP lasts for 12 months.
- Innovate – A two-year Innovate RAP outlines the specific actions an organisation plans to take to achieve its vision. These actions will engage staff members in reconciliation, and help to develop and test strategies to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
- Stretch – In the Stretch RAP phase, an organisation that has made a strong start in implementing reconciliation strategies sets goals to make these initiatives part of their permanent business settings over the next two to three years.
- Elevate – Organisations that show leadership in advancing reconciliation nationally and creating societal change may be eligible to create an Elevate RAP. To gain this type of accreditation, an organisation must demonstrate transparency and accountability by having their activities independently assessed.
What a RAP includes
If you decide to seek RAP accreditation, Reconciliation Australia will provide a template to guide you in writing and implementing your plan. The template prompts you to state why you’re developing a RAP. How will you implement the initiatives described in the RAP? And what relationships or partnerships do you already have with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and/or businesses?
There’s a table for summarising aims, planned actions, deadlines and the names of the people who will be responsible for completing tasks. A tip: your plan will pass through Reconciliation Australia’s review processes more easily if you spread responsibilities across the organisation and set realistic time frames in which to achieve each of the RAP’s goals.
Creating a RAP is a learning process. For instance, feedback from the review process will guide you in using inclusive language. This might be as simple as referring to plural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘peoples’ to include the multiple Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders communities that might be relevant to your organisation’s activities.
Supporting the Voice
If you decide to create a RAP for your organisation, you’ll join a diverse cohort of RAP organisations that includes sporting clubs, charities, educational institutions, peak bodies, large corporates and more.
Around 70 of them made a joint statement supporting a ‘yes’ vote in the 2023 referendum on changing Australia’s Constitution to enshrine a Voice to Parliament for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Signatories include non-profits such as Life Without Barriers and the Brotherhood of St. Laurence; sporting codes such as the National Rugby League; and large businesses including Origin Energy and Wesfarmers. As RAP organisations, each of the signatories will have thought carefully about their organisation’s position and attitude towards a wide range of activities aimed at improving opportunities for First Nations people.
Reconciliation Australia’s website has comprehensive information on starting a RAP.
Editor Group has edited and proofread RAPs for a range of organisations, including Boral’s Innovate RAP, which you can read on Boral’s website.