At Australian Unity, we are proud of our 175-year heritage.
But this is a flash in time compared to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ 50,000-year continuing connection to this land.
Our brief shared history of just a few generations has been a cruel injustice for the First Australians.
It’s time for us to play our part for change.
Rohan Mead: Australian Unity has helped shape modern Australia.
We provided our members with a vital social safety net before there was a national welfare system.
But we drove other change as well.
In the late 1800s our members pushed for Federation when Australia was still divided into colonies.
But its founding document, the Constitution, contained no reference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
And in 1888 our predecessor organisation the Australian Natives’ Association established a “national day” on January 26, the date of of the arrival of the First Fleet.
This became Australia Day.
These contributions reflected both our membership and the society of the day, and have formed an important part of Australian Unity’s history.
But they should now be be reassessed in a new light.
That is why over the last few months we've worked closely with Reconciliation Australia to create Australian Unity's first Reconciliation Action Plan.
It begins in 2017.
Benson Saulo: As a descendant of the Wemba Wemba and Gunditjmara Aboriginal nations of Western Victoria, I have a deep personal commitment to reconciliation.
I have been given the privilege and responsibility of bringing Australian Unity’s Reconciliation Action Plan to life.
I am looking to working with our staff, our members and our customers to support reconciliation.
This will include enabling greater connection and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture.
And it will require strong mutually respectful relationships and opportunities right across our business.
Narrator: Australian Unity's Reconciliation Action Plan highlights three initiatives to build respect, relationships and opportunities.
First, we are calling for a national conversation about changing the date of Australia Day.
Rohan Mead: We believe it is time for a fresh, informed conversation about January 26 as the date of Australia Day.
Let me be clear.
We are entirely supportive of Australia Day.
It is a day on which Australians can celebrate all the wonderful things about this country.
But if many First Australians are uncomfortable about this celebration being on January 26, shouldn't we consider their views in ways that we did not in 1988.
Narrator: Second we are supporting Constitutional change to explicitly recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Benson Saulo: We believe that full respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples requires both removing the race discrimination provisions and an explicit recognition within the Constitution.
Narrator: And third we will find practical ways through our diverse suite of businesses to create opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Rohan Mead: We will create personal and management development along with leadership pathways for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce.
And we'll explore relationships with Indigenous-owned businesses that support economic development outcomes in communities across Australia.
Benson Saulo: Having a Reconciliation Action Plan is a terrific achievement.
But it's just the first step in our journey.
Implementing it is going to be the real challenge.
Rohan Mead: We stand at an important moment in our organisation's history.
We have the opportunity to reflect on our past decisions and past practices, but also to take a contributing step towards a future in which all Australians, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, can stand together in a reconciled nation.
This will be a whole of company effort.
I believe that we have the resources, the experience, the expertise, and most importantly the passion, to do just that.
We imagine an Australia where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are able to live the best life possible.
We imagine an Australia that celebrates our shared and distinct heritages.
We imagine an Australia reconciled with its past and optimistic for its future.
By doing this, we hope to provide practical support for unity and reconciliation.