Gamilaraay man and Senior Aboriginal Affairs and Participation Consultant at WSP Russell Reid spoke to Engineers Australia this week about the importance of reconciliation in engineering and wider society.
Reflecting on the meaning of the theme for National Reconciliation Week 2023, ‘Be a Voice for Generations’, Reid highlights how engineering organisations can better embrace reconciliation and support First Nations engineers in the workplace.
The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2023 is, Be a Voice for Generations. How do you see this in a practical sense?
A voice for generations means to me that as we plan our lives and work, we think of the legacy that we are obliged to leave the next generation, is it a positive legacy that will assist future generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?
What are your reflections in Reconciliation Week? Have we made meaningful steps towards reconciliation as a nation?
Reconciliation Week has given Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the opportunity to access different industries that hold a Reconciliation Action Plan. It has also allowed business and individuals to break into a career away from the old norms such as health, education, legal and medical.
We have made tiny inroads, but Australia as a whole will need to do some more homework on the plight of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and try to look past their own personal bias.
What are some of the tangible ways all of us can recognise reconciliation?
Education is a good start. For example, asking questions such as do you know what First Nations Language group you live in? Have you met an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person and truly listened without judgement? If people don’t understand where we come from surely, they wouldn’t understand where we are heading in the future.
How can organisations better support First Nations engineers to have a voice in the workplace?
By understanding that First Nations engineers have been around for thousands of years, and yes we do some things differently than others may. We have all been on a long journey and some of those journeys have been harder than most people realise.
Are there any examples of great programs or processes that support First Nations engineers that you would like to highlight?
At present there is planning for a whole-of-career engineering path starting with Deadly Coders. We then have lobbied support through various universities for young engineers to complete their studies through this sponsorship and mentoring.
I attended a forum involving Indigenous Engineers Australia where young people can come together to support each other. WSP has also recently given a scholarship to a university to assist young women in engineering.
Introducing the Indigenous engineering group for NSW and ACT
A group of engineers from across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory have come together to ‘be a voice of generations’ and form the NSW and ACT Indigenous Engineering Group.
The group will aim to promote the benefits of walking together, work on tools to attract and retain First Nations staff, promote the profession to first nations peoples and promote good practice.
If you are interested in joining this group, email [email protected]