An aim to create social change and economic opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is at the heart of the Reconciliation Action Plan recently adopted by OBE Organic.
Australia’s oldest organic beef marketing company became one of the first Australian agribusinesses to adopt such a plan, which it hopes will encourage others to consider developing their own.
OBE Organic managing director, Dalene Wray, said it was not something they were doing because it was a “nice thing to do”.
As well as developing professionally and personally, Dalene hoped it would help close the gap for indigenous people.
“Most properties in the OBE supply chain that employ staff – they are indigenous,” she said. “Without the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contribution to the supply chain, we wouldn’t have one. This is acknowledging that.”
She expected it would give the organisation a mechanism for cross-checking when decisions were being made, and would help with staffing resources.
“For example, the Land Corporation trains indigenous ringers but they don’t always have jobs to go to. We could employ them and they could go back to their homelands out of season.”
Dalene said the action built on the cultural diversity within their customer base, and allowed them to network with other organisations that had developed their own action plans.
She expected the encouragement of a range of thinking and looking to provide equal opportunities would benefit OBE Organic over the long term.
“We did an acknowledgement to country in Thargomindah when we had our AGM and people came up and thanked us afterwards.
“We are making headway when it comes to diversity in female leadership but not in regard to indigenous representation.
“Over 970 companies in Australia have a reconciliation action plan but only a handful – GrainCorp, Incitec Pivot, and the Indigenous Land Corporation – are in agribusiness.
“It’s not talked about, but it should be.”
Described as a practical action plan to create social change and economic opportunities, the OBE RAP, administered by Reconciliation Australia, has been developed and implemented by a working group that includes Wangkangurru woman and OBE Organic producer from Murnpeowie Station, SA, Joyleen Booth, and Amy Brooks, a Wulli Wulli woman with over 10 years’ experience in the Australian beef and food industry.
Amy’s family has worked in the agricultural industry in some type of capacity for as long as it can date its ancestry, and she said creating the RAP was an important part of the reconciliation journey for Australia.
“It allows a wide range of private,public and government companies and departments to contribute and facilitate change and perceptions by building meaningful synergies to pave the way towards a more equitable Australia,” she said.
Dalene said working with Joyleen and Amy had been one of the most rewarding experiences of her career.
“Developing our RAP has made me look at our business in a new light, and I would recommend any company to undertake this process,” she said. “It has already increased our understanding and respect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
RAPs are created from a template provided by Reconciliation Australia, which Dalene said made it relatively simple.
“But like any plan, the challenge will be in executing it well,” she said.
“The creation of our RAP is just the start of our reconciliation journey.
“We expect to learn a great deal as we work with Amy, Joyleen and other members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, and we hope our journey will allow us to make a genuine and tangible contribution to reconciliation in Australia.”