The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which the ALRC stands and we pay our respects to their elders, both past and present. The ALRC’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) documents the aims and strategies that the ALRC will adopt to contribute to and promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The ALRC is a federal statutory authority, operating under the Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996 (Cth).
Our vision for reconciliation
‘Reconciliation involves justice, recognition and healing. It’s about helping all Australians move forward with a better understanding of the past and how the past affects the lives of Indigenous people today.’
The ALRC sees reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians as comprising both processes and outcomes. Both of these things require meaningful and ongoing dialogue between Indigenous peoples and the ALRC. For the ALRC, respect for Indigenous peoples; participation and representation of Indigenous peoples; and consideration and understanding of issues that are important to Indigenous peoples are essential features of the journey to, and achievement of, reconciliation in Australia.
The ALRC’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) focuses on relationships, respect and opportunities. The ALRC recognises that our RAP needs to achieve practical outcomes. Therefore, the ALRC commits to:
- engage and consult with Indigenous groups, individuals and organisations;
- promote Indigenous representation in the ALRC workforce and internship program;
- promote a meaningful understanding of issues relevant to Indigenous peoples amongst ALRC staff;
- consider the impact on Indigenous peoples in developing recommendations for law reform; and
- strive to protect and promote the rights of Indigenous peoples in all aspects of our work.
The ALRC recognises that historically the Australian legal system has failed to deliver equitable social and economic outcomes for Indigenous peoples. As a law reform body, the ALRC has the opportunity to contribute to social justice, equity and inclusion in Australia. The ALRC commits to building trusting relationships with Indigenous peoples, while recognising that building relationships and trust takes time and requires resources. The ALRC will take account of this in the way it organises its activities and priorities.
Promoting informed government decisions about the development, reform and harmonisation of Australian laws and related processes through research, analysis, reports and community consultation and education.
Summary and key learnings 2012–14
The past two years have been challenging for the ALRC with a further reduction in staffing from 16.24 to 14 and a very big work load with the ALRC working on four inquiries during the past year as opposed to the two concurrent inquiries that is our usual practice. This has added to the workload of the staff and made it more difficult to undertake other activities. As a result, the ALRC has decided to form a Diversity Working Group and to include the RAP Committee within this broader group rather than to continue with two stand-alone Committees.
Focus area: To encourage the participation of Indigenous people in the work of the ALRC, we will focus on improving engagement and consultation strategies.
Maintain the RAP Committee.
RAP Committee meeting quarterly.
Due to resourcing issues, it was decided to combine the RAP Committee with the Diversity Working Group and to meet every 6 months rather than quarterly.
Due to the small size of the ALRC and the nature of our work, we found that there was little achieved in meeting quarterly.
Identify opportunities for consultation with Indigenous communities and organisations on ALRC inquiries, where relevant.
When a consultation has been conducted with an Indigenous organisation it will be reported to the RAP Committee.
Number of consultations with Indigenous peoples held per inquiry.
The ALRC has consulted widely with the Aboriginal community on two specific inquiries, one into Commonwealth Laws and Disability and the other on changes to the Native Title Act.
Our ability to consult with Indigenous communities and organisations is very much influenced by the nature of the inquiry work at any given time. Some inquiries are more relevant to Indigenous people than others, and where an inquiry is not seen as relevant, it has been difficult to engage with Indigenous communities in the process of law reform. Therefore, this target is greatly influence by the nature of our work at any given time, something that is not within our control.
Awareness of protocols for use by ALRC legal staff in all consultations with Indigenous peoples that reflect their diversity of circumstances. This may mean using local Indigenous consultants, interpreters, taking oral submissions and other flexible consultation processes so that Indigenous perspectives and opinions are understood. A checklist that outlines these protocols to be developed. Consult with other organisations that have a protocol of this nature, e.g. Arts Law Centre.
Checklist developed and used by Legal Officers during inquiry consultation processes.
Protocols documented and used in Legal Officer inductions.
Protocols considered prior to all consultations with Indigenous communities.
Although a protocol document has not yet been developed, the Native Title team has been aware of the appropriate way of communicating with Indigenous communities and has gone through the Native Title Rep groups where appropriate. They have also canvassed whether there was a need to use interpreters and community consultants although for the consultations to date, the communities did not think this was necessary. The website submissions page states that people can make submissions to the Inquiry orally if they need to. Two oral submissions have been received.
Provide feedback to Indigenous communities about the results of consultations and/or inquiries in a number of ways including by using the ALRC website, through fact sheets, articles in publications and through conferences and seminars.
Feedback is provided to Indigenous communities on the ALRC’s consultations and inquiry processes and accounted for in the consultation strategy checklist and report.
ALRC website is updated re any consultations with Indigenous communities and any results from inquiries.
The Native Title Inquiry team provided feedback on the progress of this Inquiry at the National Native Title Conference in Coffs Harbor in June 2014 and through the Native Title e-news and on the website. An information sheet outlining the key recommendations that may affect Indigenous peoples was produced for the Age Barriers to Work Inquiry and for the Commonwealth Laws and Family Violence Inquiry.
Providing feedback to the community once an inquiry is completed is an important way of both respecting the input that these communities have had to the inquiry and demonstrating how their input has been utilised, and also an important way of extending the relations that have been made during an inquiry.
Maintain the currency of the ALRC contact database and ensure Indigenous legal organisations, lawyers and stakeholders are included in the ALRC mailing lists and invited to ALRC functions.
Indigenous stakeholders have been added to our database and are sent information about our inquiry work that is of relevance to them.
It is important to have Indigenous media included in all media mail outs so as to raise knowledge of ALRC activities in the Indigenous community. Ensuring Indigenous people receive our newsletters and media releases is important to building connections and understanding of the work of the ALRC.
Invite Indigenous people to participate in Advisory Committees for ALRC references.
Consideration has been given to invite Indigenous people to sit on ALRC Advisory Committees and Expert Panels for all inquiries.
Number of Indigenous people serving on ALRC Advisory Committees.
Indigenous experts have served on the Advisory Committees for the Copyright Inquiry and the Inquiry into the Native Title Act.
Even when there is no Advisory Committee for an inquiry, it is important to contact experts in the field to get their input and Indigenous perspective.
Focus area: Improve the cultural awareness of ALRC staff, formalise Indigenous protocols in the processes of the ALRC and where possible, promote and acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and designers.
All ALRC staff to undertake Indigenous cultural awareness training.
Cross cultural training for all ALRC staff.
Cross cultural awareness training not undertaken during the reporting period.
Resourcing cross cultural training has been an issue in a very tight budget situation where there has been other demands for all staff training in areas such as WH&S, protective security and fraud training. Undertaking cross cultural training every two years will be more achievable.
Induction for new staff to include Indigenous cultural awareness training.
Indigenous cultural awareness to be part of the induction for all new staff, and induction materials updated to include Indigenous protocols and policies.
Training not given but new staff were encouraged to join the RAP Committee and the RAP was given to them.
No one felt confident to conduct Indigenous cultural awareness training for new staff. Instead the DWG believes that it is more realistic to give a copy of the RAP to new staff and that this should be the new action in an updated RAP.
Investigate a policy for handling Indigenous material that is culturally sensitive. Utilise policies developed by other organisations where possible.
Policy in place, used by staff and published on ALRC website.
Confidential submissions are treated in the same way as all confidential submissions as per the ALRC submission policy.
The ALRC does not receive culturally sensitive material and therefore the Committee believes that having an actual policy to deal with culturally sensitive material is not really necessary and needs to be changed for the next RAP.
Use the protocol for Indigenous ‘Welcome to Country’ and the acknowledgement of the traditional owners and ancestors for use at ALRC functions and events.
Number of times the Welcome to Country and/or acknowledgement is used at ALRC events and functions.
Achieved. President and Commissioners have followed the acknowledgement of the traditional owners and ancestors at all Advisory Committee meetings, at consultations and at conferences where they are making presentations.
Develop a calendar of Indigenous events that can be celebrated and/or acknowledged by the ALRC.
Number of Indigenous events ALRC participates in.
ALRC regularly celebrates NAIDOC week and Reconciliation Week with attendance at a number of associated events.
Maintain subscriptions to relevant Indigenous magazines, newsletters, and Indigenous law journals.
Number of current subscriptions.
The ALRC receives newsletters and/or alerts from the Indigenous Law Centre at UNSW, from AIATSIS and from the National Native Title Tribunal.
ALRC has had to reduce the number of magazines and papers it subscribes to due to budgetary restrictions.
Seek opportunities to support Indigenous businesses whenever possible.
Number of Indigenous businesses utilised by the ALRC.
ALRC commissioned Indigenous company Gilimbaa to provide artwork for its Native Title Inquiry.
The ALRC has limited need to commission outside businesses to undertake work with the ALRC. Most commonly when activities are commissioned such as catering, cost is the key factor driving our decisions.
Focus area: As the ALRC’s workforce is small and stable, the focus will be on recruitment for the ALRC internship program, and enhanced participation in consultation and advisory processes.
Increase the number of Indigenous applicants to ALRC positions—advertise all new jobs in Indigenous media.
Number of Indigenous advertisements for each position.
Under current Government employment policy positions can no longer be publically advertised. All new positions must be referred to APSC and if approval is given to recruit, recruitment is limited to current APS employees through the public gazette.
Establish an Indigenous component to the internship program at the ALRC.
Number of Indigenous interns.
ALRC has recruited one Indigenous student to attend our internship program and to work on the ALRC Native Title Inquiry.
Having a specifically targeted Indigenous internship program is not possible given the current resources of the ALRC. However, making connections with Indigenous law centres to alert them to the internship is something that is done at the beginning of each semester.
Investigate whether it is possible for the ALRC to establish a relationship with a Sydney-based Indigenous organisation to share expertise.
This is not a realistic action given the level of resources at the ALRC.
Identify suggestions for new ALRC references of primary interest to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Suggestions identified and discussed with the Attorney-General’s Department.
Achieved. ALRC has an inquiry into reforming the Native Title Act.
Develop the Indigenous consultation section of the website.
Indigenous section of the ALRC website revised and updated.
Tracking progress and reporting
ALRC RAP Committee to meet quarterly to monitor the implementation of the ALRC RAP.
Progress on ALRC RAP is reported annually.
Annual reporting completed in ALRC Annual Report and on website.
Due to reduced staffing and resources it was decided to combine the RAP Committee with the Diversity Working Group and to meet twice per year.
Report progress in Annual Report.
Report included in Annual Report.
Achieved. RAP report is included in Annual Report. Final copy due in mid September. Report will then be uploaded to the ALRC website.
RAP updated by RAP Committee biennially.
New RAP will be uploaded on website in October 2014.