Transcript - Speech – Sodexo Reconciliation Action Plan



Ken Wyatt: I acknowledge the Noongar people, the traditional custodians of this land, and pay my respects to our Elders, past and present.


I also acknowledge one of the reconciliation pioneers who is with us, former Minister Fred Chaney, and Mark Chalmers of Sodexo, and the many distinguished guests here today.


I am reminded of a time when Fred was Minister, when we’d hoped to hold positions within many corporate companies, even at the lesser level. And I’m reminded of a time when we ran a project with KFC in Dog Swamp.


It was run a young women who was working in the vet sector and she approached them to have young Aboriginal people working behind the counter of KFC.


And the young girl that they recruited for that particular location went down, stood behind the cash register after she’d done all her training and had no customers for a whole week - nobody would stand in her line, until somebody broke rank and had her serve them.


And I think of that point in time which was back in the 80s to where we are now. And I’ve walked through companies in very privileged roles, and I look at CEOs and managers like Mark who have decided that with their teams to undertake a process that engages Indigenous Australians in a very different way to what we’ve seen in the past.


I think one of the best things that came out of the reconciliation process was the Reconciliation Action Plans.


I remember doing one for education. When I was doing it I had pushback saying we already had an Aboriginal employment strategy, we didn’t really need to do more than that.


But we still persisted and we launched one; did one in health. But the greatest joy as an Indigenous Australia is seeing the corporate sector take on with some rigour reconciliation action plans that weren’t just about employment, they were about a social construct that started to recognise the value and capacity and individuality of Indigenous Australians in their organisation and in their place.


And I walk around corporate companies now right over this country, as I said, and I see Indigenous Australians holding on their positions that are at leadership levels through to those who work at the front face of the organisation, reflecting the diversity and commitment of that organisation to make an incredible difference.


And Sodexo, to have an elevated reconciliation action plan means that you've achieved an incredibly high standard against all of those elements that you had within your vision.


And to achieve that means that your commitment to a way in which we work and walk together gives an economic opportunity to young Indigenous people.


It gives an opportunity that empowers them to be as strong as individuals. I've watched Sean in his journey through the casino arena – not gambling – but work.


And I’ve watched the confidence that exudes from him because he has held positions in which he is able to make decisions in his own right and in the authority vested in him by the position that he held within that organisation.


Very different to when we were in our youth. I’m looking at Jim Morrison, who’s probably the same age as I am. When they created what they called 50(d) positions for us to be able to have our jobs within an organisation.


And the expectation was that if you had a 50(d) position, you were only capable of being an Aboriginal person doing an Aboriginal job. When I look at some of the faces around this room now and I see Irene - you no longer hold a 50(d) job.


You hold a job in a company where you make a difference. But you are seen for having the strength and capability and capacity to do the work of a peer.  And that is one of the strengths of the reconciliation action plans.


But when they’re elevated and you reach another stage, it means that your organisation has infused an understanding of the people who work with you, of the programs that you’ve put into place that makes the support easier.


What I like about our generation is we had to fight the hard stuff. I once worked in an agency where a senior executive said in an interview about Aboriginal people working in the organisation, they're all “Uncle Toms”.


It was a government agency and that was only probably 25 years ago, and I say that provocatively because the transitioning of what I have seen because of the work of reconciliation action - Reconciliation Australia - and in all the corporates of Garma, the corporates I've sat with as a Federal Member, the enthusiasm and desire to make sure that Aboriginal Australia is very much embodied within your organisations and that speaks volumes for Sodexo because I know of the work that you've been doing.


And I'm certainly aware of the impact that you've had on me. And what you're producing - a team of people who will come through your organisations and will be competitively not only in your organisation, but nationally and globally.


In the past we would hold national positions, but I’m now seeing more and more people sit at tables, negotiating for their companies on a global basis. That is very different to the 50s when I grew up, where the Native Welfare Act was still the dominant factor that controlled us.


I remember the fights that Chaney had in the Australian Parliament to improve the thinking of government's. At the time Fred was challenged by his colleagues for his support of Indigenous issues.


But his greatest achievement was through the reconciliation process because he was only constrained to do the things that were necessary to make a difference to our lives. And it's not only Fred; there were others who walked with him.


And Sodexo, I love what you do. I think it’s fantastic. I think, who knows, out of your company might come the next Indigenous prime minister because when you give people trust, confidence and allow them to have integrity in the roles that they fulfil, then you allow the individual to soar.


You allow a person to become corporate and you allow the individual to be what they aspire to. And I see brothers and sisters in this room who have done that.


But we can't do it without you so I thank you very, very much. Congratulate you on your elevated plan. And I'm pleased to be part of it today and pleased to be able to acknowledge the efforts, not only of your company, but for the companies that you and Reconciliation Australian people have influenced as well.


But what I like is that you have done it with us.


You've sought our counsel and you have put in place the things that we've always aspired to. So I thank all of you and it’s great to be here.


Thank you.