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Reconciliation Action Plan moves to next level


Lucy Davis, Commissioner Miriam Gluyas, Uncle Vince Ross and Colonel Winsome Merrett at the cake-cutting ceremony.

 BY ANTHONY CASTLE

 

The Salvation Army Australia Territory has completed the ‘Innovation’ stage of its national Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

 

The goal was recently celebrated at the Yakila – Walking and Talking Together conference in the Adelaide Hills, with a cake-cutting ceremony live-streamed nationwide.

 

Launched in December 2020, The Salvation Army’s RAP has been driven by Strategic Manager Lucy Davis, who first came to the idea as a sceptic.

 

“We needed to have a national RAP, and I said I’d do it on the basis that we were actually going to make change,” Lucy explains. “We wouldn’t want it to be a token document. Blackfellas can sometimes be opposed to RAPs for that reason, so I was determined to make our own RAP the opposite. I told them so, and I still got the job.”

 

A RAP is a framework for an organisation to contribute to the reconciliation movement. RAPs deliver tangible and substantive benefits for First Nations peoples. Over 1200 Salvos gathered in yarning circles online during the COVID-19 period, expressing a desire to see things change.

 

“We started by saying, ‘What are we doing now, and what can we do better?’” Lucy says. “COVID had hit, so we had to try to do it all online in our homes, making sure we had local voices and corporate voices. There was a real expectation to come with grace, to leave preconceived thoughts prior to coming to the circle, and that together we would yarn this out.”



 Mutual respect

RAPs consist of five components: race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity, and historical acceptance. The Salvation Army recognises that its collective actions must develop relationships of mutual respect and maintain a commitment to truth and accountability with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

 

“If you don’t get this right, there’s disconnection from country and spirit, disconnection from the First Peoples of the land,” says Lucy. “I think it’s different for a faith-based organisation because they played a massive part in disrupting Aboriginal communities and homes. There are significant disadvantaged communities in Australia that The Salvation Army either set up or played a role in operating. We have a responsibility to those people who now live in intergenerational trauma. I don’t want to work in an organisation that says, ‘It’s too hard’. This is exactly where Jesus would want us to be. This is his bread and butter.”

 

“The Salvation Army’s vision for reconciliation is to be a faith movement committed to social justice, equity and freedom.”

 

The RAP has impacted key areas of The Salvation Army’s engagement with First Nations peoples. The Burra Burra network now allows First Nations personnel to connect and feel welcome. The Recruitment and Retention working group updated the recruitment process, and the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates hired is up by 40 per cent.

 

“We needed progressive change and structural change,” Lucy says. “Action makes movement; it isn’t just lip service. There’s measurable, tangible outcomes, and when something hasn’t worked, we asked, ‘Could this be done better?’”


The Salvation Army has also adopted Cultural Competence training across the organisation, and Division Cultural Immersion Experiences in the South Australia/Northern Territory Division. A significant milestone achieved during the RAP period was the establishment of a ‘Truth-Telling’ framework.

 

“On paper, our RAP looks really good, and we are ticking all the right boxes, but if we are not having an impact on First Nations people in the communities we work in, then we have to look at how we measure success,” Lucy says. “I was a little shocked to hear at the recent Yakila conference that some of our First Nations personnel were not aware we even had a RAP. In turn, they were a little shocked and disappointed to learn about the RAP Deliverables we have implemented, as they could see the benefits to themselves and their community if they had more knowledge of the RAP.”

 

Next stage of the RAP

The ‘Stretch’ RAP consultation begins in March this year, with the next stage to be launched in August. Key targets will be to engage First Peoples in every community where The Salvation Army is present, to have an active target for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment, to review the organisation’s Closing The Gap strategy, and to develop and undertake a truth-telling process in communities.

 

“Next is truth-telling, repair and justice,” Lucy explains. “We have to go on this scary journey of truth-telling about where our footprint has been as a Christian movement. We have to start engaging in those yarns, to accept it and work together to rectify the situation we’ve been a part of.”

 

The Salvation Army’s vision for reconciliation is to be a faith movement committed to social justice, equity and freedom. The Salvation Army seeks God’s direction in moving forward, in reconciliation, relationship building, and engagement.

 

“I prefer to look at Jesus moving from place to place,” Lucy says. “If that’s what it takes, to move our way through and empower local voices, then that’s what it takes. We need to be the doers and goers in the background, empowering local voices, who are the experts on their community.”


RAP Strategic Manager Lucy Davis presents at the Yakila conference.

 

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