NAIDOC Week 2020 Panel: SHAPE shines light on Indigenous Reconciliation

As part of NAIDOC Week 2020 and SHAPE’s wider Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), we hosted a fantastic panel event with past and present First Nations sportspeople.

The Q&A event, which took place on Thursday 19th November, was moderated by Jodie Taylor from Supply Nation and included:

  • Michael O’Loughlin, former Sydney Swans player and now Indigenous business owner of ARA Indigenous Services
  • Jada Matthyssen-Whyman, current Sydney FC Women’s League goalkeeper
  • David Liddiard, former professional rugby league player and Chairman of SHAPE’s Indigenous owned and run business arm, DLG Shape

Reflecting on the NAIDOC theme for 2020, ‘Always Was, Always Will Be,’ the three professional Indigenous athletes celebrated the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

They discussed how Australia’s oldest continuing culture has influenced their sporting careers, how they transitioned from professional athletes to leaders of business and social impact ventures, and how these endeavours have impacted the Indigenous community.

As a first for SHAPE, the entire panel discussion was live-streamed on SHAPE’s LinkedIn Live. The session was recorded and is available for viewing here.

Panellists were impressed with how the themes of NAIDOC Week have resonated over recent years and were empowered that many Australians have continued to push ahead and celebrate in 2020, despite the challenging year that it’s been. Whether it be through smaller community and business activities or through great online events such as SHAPE’s live-streamed discussion.

A key takeaway was summed up nicely from Michael O’Loughlin who conveyed his passion around the need for further education on NAIDOC Week and Indigenous culture. Michael said: “It’s really an education piece. Growing up, none of my friends knew about Aboriginal culture and NAIDOC Week is really driving that awareness to the forefront. It’s a great way to educate people on different communities and cultures.”

“We need to put our arms around our younger generation and show them they can do this if they put the work in. We need more education and support across all industries – we don’t just need more sport players; we need more executives too.”

Another key insight from the discussion was on how resilience and connection are a core component of Aboriginal culture. Michael called out how continuing to show up is half the battle. Getting Indigenous youth involved consistently is key to promoting positive change and leaders within the community are already helping to drive this.

He said: “We need to put our arms around our younger generation and show them they can do this if they put the work in. We need more education and support across all industries – we don’t just need more sport players; we need more executives too.”

This sentiment was also conveyed by fellow panellist, Jada Matthyssen-Whyman who said: “Anyone from any age or gender shouldn’t be afraid to say they don’t know something, they should be empowered to ask. Females, in particular, are doing that more now in traditionally male-dominated industries.”

David Liddiard who is Chairman of DLG SHAPE, a majority Indigenous-owned business that provides construction services across Australia, has been driving this empowerment by helping businesses develop their own reconciliation action plans.

David has been a dynamic driver in SHAPE’s journey towards Reconciliation, which began in 2015 following the Federal Government’s Indigenous procurement policy. Since then, SHAPE implemented its own RAP, which has invested more than $15 million with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses, including working with Indigenous subcontractors and suppliers across Australia.

SHAPE’s RAP drives the team towards acknowledging and valuing the cultures and histories of Australia’s First Peoples, and recognises their role as the original custodians of the land on which we live. SHAPE also wants to play their part in closing the socio-economic gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader Australian community, by building meaningful relationships and creating opportunities for employment and sustainable business to business engagement.

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