In Australia, government departments have been proactive in working with and engaging Indigenous businesses through their Closing the Gap initiative. However, the advertising and media industry has been slow to embrace these goals. But this is about to change, said Indigenous Film Maker CEO Peter Kirk.
Government departments are going to start making agencies more compliant and introduce Indigenous headcounts, making the inclusion of Indigenous Australians in the advertising industry more important than ever before.
Speaking at the Advertising Week APAC Conference, Initiative director of people and culture Scott Laird spoke about the 12-month process of introducing its Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).
Laird admitted it has been a difficult process, but it’s one that needs to happen within Initiative and the wider advertising industry.
“We went into the journey thinking it would be an easy process and get quick wins on the board,” he said.
“We thought it would take three months to create a RAP plan and submit to the government. It took 12 months and we still aren’t at the point of being experts.”
One of the major misconceptions Laird had was RAP programs are prominently about headcount and simply hiring people.
However, he said the first step is putting in place operational changes for Indigenous Australians to thrive. This meant reconsidering the standard 9-5pm work week, flexibility programs and reframing what success looks like.
Speaking from personal experience, Kirk said he has previously struggled with jobs in which he was required to stare at a computer screen for seven hours a day.
Initiative global head of good Jason Maggs also shared his learnings from onboarding Indigenous Australians, adding they prefer open workspaces with fewer desks and more brainstorming sessions that embrace open conversations.
While the process has been met with challenges, Laird and Maggs said it hasn’t discouraged Initiative in their ambitions to create a workforce more reflective of the Australian population.
On the creation of RAP plans, Kirk said no advertising agencies have it right yet. However, he said KPMG, Qantas and the banks have set a benchmark for other Australian brands.
It’s also worth noting that KPMG started their RAP plan more than 10 years ago.
“There is no wrong way. The most important thing you can do is do something. You will make mistakes, there’s no doubt about it. But you have to start. Once you start, momentum will build,” Kirk said.
“Don’t start for fear of starting. Start because you want to make a change in people’s lives. But both cultures have to clash to come together.”