This years' theme for Reconciliation Week 2017 is 'Let's Take the Next Steps' and after over 12 months of working alongside Reconciliation Australia, the digital powerhouse, Google, is now taking one giant leap and launching their first ever Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).
Last year, the tech giant promised to create a plan to take practical actions, build respectful relationships and open up new opportunities for First Nations' Australians.
In the lead up to today, Google Australia has a number of Indigenous strategies and RAP-based activities. the company has worked in close partnerships with Aboriginal Legal Service, AIME, NITV and the World Indigenous Broadcasters Network (WITBN), and in January 26, 2016 - a day which many Indigenous Peoples refer to as 'Invasion Day' or 'Day of Mourning' - the iconic Google Doodle depicted the Stolen Generation; a weeping mother and her absent children, making a vastly different statement from most media decorated in the Union Jack and the Southern Cross.
This morning in Metcalfe Park, Sydney, Google Australian launched their RAP-plan, opening with a smoking ceremony by one of Australia's most colourful Aboriginal personalities and elders, Uncle Max Eulo, followed by an official Welcome to Country by Gadigal Elder, Uncle Allen Madden.
Speaking on behalf of Google was Google Australia's Managing Director, Jason Pellegrino, who said the plan began from the passion of committed 'Googlers' who want to be a part of path towards reconciliation, of which is one. Mr Pellegrino spoke about being of a generation that lacked Indigenous education,
"At school ... all you learnt was the bravery and the skill of European settlers and explorers, and the reality of it, was that there wasn't any recognition for the role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had these before Europeans landed.
Now - this is the reflection I have had - it's wonderful to see in such a short period of time, that we have changed. And my kids are now learning, to a much deeper degree, about Aboriginal culture, about their connection to the land and their custodianship. And that's a wonderful thing, but there is so much more to do."
He also made clear that Google aims to put this plan at the core of their culture, not put text down on a piece of paper or make a document to get filed away in a desk draw, but become a part of who the company is and how it operates.
"Is not just a single plan, but it lives with us all and we continue to work on it."
Director of Engineering of Google Australia, Alan Noble, also addressed the launch, outlining Google Australia's three-step action plan;
- Relationships - Partner with, and learn from, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities.
- Respect - Raise Google employee awareness of, and respect for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories and achievements, in order to build an appreciation of life in Australia from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective.
"We want to ensure Googlers have every opportunity to learn about this amazing culture and history."
- Opportunity - Provide better access to technology for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and a greater focus on building a pool of future technologists that better reflects Australia’s diversity.
"We want to continue to have diversity and be inclusive, and be much more representative of diverse groups including First Nations,
"In the longer term, we want to expand the pool of technologists. Today, very very few Indigenous Australians are studying science, technology and engineering in school, and that needs to change over the long-term.
"[We want to] Bridge the digital divide, especially when the most disadvantaged communities are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities which have the double tyranny of remote distances."
To wrap up the event in Pyrmont, Sydney, music favourite and Torres Strait Islander Woman, Christine Anu sung a song in language and closed with her popular number, 'My Island Home'. Uncle Max's smoking twigs created an effective, powerful stage on the grass of Gadigal Land, with inspired Googlers eager to engage with Indigenous Australia.