At Ventia, we recognise our leaders have a core role in helping us play our part in closing the gap. Through our Reconciliation Action Plan, we have committed to increase senior management engagement via our cultural learning pathway.

Business Community General Manager Neil Birtchnell says that engaging with senior leaders is important to ensure we have leadership in the Indigenous space at the highest levels of our organisation. 

"Not only does leader engagement help build a culture of awareness, but it's important that our leaders have the resources and understanding to support their teams," Neil says.

In addition to the online Cultural Awareness Training that all employees are required to undertake, leaders across our Australian business are invited to participate in one of two face-to-face sessions each year. One is held on the west coast at the start of the year followed by a mid-year session on the east coast. 

This year's west coast session was held over two days in late January at the Western Australian Cricket Association ground (WACA), with a large venue necessary to ensure appropriate social distancing could be maintained!

Feedback from participants was highly complimentary, with one of our leaders saying it was the best program she'd attended. 

Gail Reynolds-Adamson from Indigenous Consulting Group developed and runs this program and says the course's essential theme is that the past is the past. 

"There are lessons to be learned from it, but let's get on with the future, Gail says. "Management needs to implement the spirit of closer inter-racial ideals in their everyday workplace practices. This will prove a significant contributor to reconciliation in Australia."

Gail was appointed to run the program six years ago.

"We always get great feedback from leaders after they've participated in this program," Neil says. "It's about acknowledging that history is important, but we shouldn't get lost in it. What are the things we can do to make a positive impact on the relationship between our Indigenous and non-Indigenous people?"

Gail says her program is about engaging hearts and minds, and that one of the signs of a successful session is the number of questions you get. 

"Everyone was really engaged, and you could tell by the fact we had some really great questions asked," Gail says. 

Feedback from our leaders 

Tracy Brathaug, Project Director on our Defence Base Services contract says that she's attended a number of cultural awareness sessions over the years, but each time she learns something new. 

"The training was excellent, and I'd definitely recommend all leaders attend," she says. "I have a team of around 90 and I know this will help me ensure I am able to support them in this space."

Project Director Lucy Cordone's enthusiasm for what she learned and how she plans to apply it across her business is obvious.

"This training is something I've wanted to do for a while," Lucy says. "I didn't learn much about Indigenous culture at school, although I did learn about the Mabo decision through law school."

Bid Manager Carly Gabel said she gained a new perspective and a real appreciation for where she lives and its long remarkable story. 

"What I learnt will help me to be more culturally sensitive, and identify cues that I may not have before," Carly says. "I am also more aware of all the additional tools and support we have available across the business. 

All three of our leaders agreed that the facilitation was extremely well done.

I would absolutely recommend this training to others,  I found every minute engaging, Carly says.

"Gail was fantastic," Lucy says. "Having someone local to share with us the kinship structures and the cultural expectations was fabulous. I also love that I was able to personalize my acknowledgement of country which makes me feel really connected to it."

Lucy says that since the training she has started encouraging her teams in the Defence business to do a diversity share at the start of meetings along with a safety share, and she has plans in place to put her supervisors and frontline leaders through a version of this face to face training. 

"I feel like I am much better equipped to support and encourage an inclusive culture now. I will be working with my leaders to ensure we're creating culturally safe workplaces right across our business and celebrating the successes we have."

For more information on Ventia's RAP or on our Indigenous engagement initiatives visit our Reconciliation Approach page.