36 COMMUNITY | LEGAL SECTOR SUSTAINABILITY INSIGHT 2018 RECONCILIATION IN AUSTRALIA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander reconciliation is a journey of improving mutual trust and respect and closing the gaps in opportunity. Reconciliation encourages cooperation and improved harmony between first Australians and non-Indigenous Australians. The history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander treatment since European settlement is one that has excluded many of our 790,000 first Australians from the benefits of mainstream society and has built a legacy of disadvantage and inequality. The reconciliation process is critical step to improving our understanding of how our history has shaped our relationships, connection and respect for each other’s culture. A formal process examining how to achieve recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Australian Constitution has been underway since 2011. In 2017 the Government’s Referendum Council hosted a National Constitutional Convention at Uluru including over 250 Aboriginal delegates from across Australia. They issued the Uluru Statement from the Heart with a recommendation for an Indigenous voice to parliament. Reconciliation Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) program provides a framework for organisations to realise their vision for reconciliation based around the themes of Respect, Relationships and Opportunities. Reconciliation Australia’s 2017 State of Reconciliation in Australia report discusses five dimensions of reconciliation; historical acceptance, equality and equity, institutional integrity, unity and race relations. In Australia the legal profession has filled an important role by working in each of these five dimensions to improve equality and reconciliation through; • assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Centres • direct pro bono services for individuals and groups • secondments of staff to and from firms • strategic partnership including sponsorships, corporate giving and volunteering • Reconciliation Action Plans through Reconciliation Australia • development of Indigenous lawyers • National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week activities • a more diversified supply chain through procurement from Indigenous-owned businesses. Career Trackers, supported by eight AusLSA members, and Tarwirri, the Indigenous Law Students and Lawyers Association of Victoria are two examples of programs aimed at increasing the number and inclusion of first Australians in the legal sector. 2018 AusLSA Member Performance Seventy-three percent of reporting firms either have an indigenous reconciliation policy or have one in preparation This is an increase from sixty-six percent in 2017 and fifty-six percent in 2016. All but one firm shares their approved policies publicly. Ninety six percent of firms had formal management structures in place to implement their policies and report progress. This has significantly increased from seventy-seven percent in 2017 and seventy percent in 2016. Management mechanisms in place range from ranging from committees, partners, directors and combinations of these with seventy percent including the use of a committee. While only forty-three percent of firms had developed a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) that had been reviewed by Reconciliation Australia, this has increased from thirty-nine percent in 2017. Firms were most active in active as participants in initiatives and events designed to raise awareness and provide recognition to reconciliation and indigenous issues. Involved firms participated in an average of 3.4 activities or programs up from 208 in 2017. An additional five firms took FORMAL POLICY PUBLISHED POLICY POLICY PUBLISHED POLICY 53% 23% 20% 3% Yes No Currently in Development Not Reported 42% 6% 52% Yes No Not Reported