Centacare Catholic Country SA (Centacare CCSA) was established in the Port Pirie Diocese in 1995 and is a not-for-profit organisation delivering a range of social services throughout regional, rural and remote South Australia.
Our reconciliation origins stem from the development of our first Cultural Action Team (CAT) in 2009; the team consisted of Aboriginal staff from across the region with a purpose to foster regional connection and peer support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and to educate and advise non-Aboriginal staff to ensure effective, culturally safe service provision to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients.
In 2017, it was identified that we required a Reconciliation Action Plan, and this saw the evolution of our Cultural Action Teams from providing local placed-based cultural advice to being representatives on our new Reconciliation Action Working Group (RAWG). This group consists of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal staff, who work together to inform organisational growth and change.
RAWG members have taken the lead in conversations about the impact of working within a social service organisation and delivering services to our Aboriginal community members. A standard workday for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff does not begin at 9 am and end at 5 pm – they are available 24/7. Obligation to family and community is not a choice nor a burden but forms part of their responsibility to culture.
Where appropriate, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff can guide service delivery, thus promoting cultural education for non-Aboriginal staff. But what about the cultural safety of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff? Often this concept is not recognised as an issue. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff are held accountable by community for the overall performance of other workplace colleagues.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff are often requested to participate or consult in meetings, on submissions or at forums, to provide cultural consultation and guidance. Sometimes little regard is given to the role for which the staff member is employed. If key performance indicators are not being met, performance may be questioned when, in fact, it is the staff member’s representation that is enhancing the organisation’s position.
Centacare CCSA’s RAWG has provided a mechanism to explore this issue through sharing stories and examples of the impact of both good and bad practices and the ripple effect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. How communities are engaged writes an organisation’s resume for delivering services.
Ensuring programs have Aboriginal consultation embedded in the funding structure, to allow time and space for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff to consult, is one mechanism to drive change and increase wellbeing. Developing local protocols for visiting and working in Aboriginal communities ensures respect and safety for service delivery. Utilisation of cultural information boards displayed in offices provides additional modes to educate staff and celebrate Aboriginal culture and dates of significance.
Social service organisations are privileged by the intellectual property of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and embracing this fact strengthens the wellbeing of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and, in turn, increases the retention rate of employees.
Our RAWG recognises and respects the diversity of communities and encourages organisations to look at their own unique abilities and platforms to explore these issues. Centacare CCSA’s commitment to reconciliation is pivotal for us to walk together into a brighter future – one that respects diversity, fosters strong relationships, and acknowledges and embraces differences. We are doing this from within the heart of our organisation.
Centacare CCSA Reconciliation Action Working Group members: