Our Commitment to Indigenous Australia

Working to heal the wounds of systemic racism.

min read
Mele-Ane Havea
Share this post

At Small Giants Academy, our work is to lead our communities towards empathy and the Next Economy, one that supports human flourishing while living in harmony with the natural world. For us, leadership takes the form of storytelling (Dumbo Feather, SGA Online), educational programming (Journey to Impact, the Mastery of Business and Empathy), events (the Next Economy series) and strategic community activation around social and environmental problems (our Next Economy Strategy Team, or NEST).

The Next Economy depends on reconciliation in the present

We understand that as we design and live into the potential of this economy, we must reconcile with the shadows of our current system. The word “reconcile” is defined as “the action of making one view or belief compatible with another.” The antonym is “estrangement and alienation.” Interestingly, our current economic paradigm is built on alienation – it is based on the belief that we are individuals, separate from all other life and motivated by our own self-interest. This belief ignores the truth that we are also part of an indivisible whole.

Working towards reconciliation in its deepest sense is about overcoming the falsehood of separation and otherness. It is about remembering that we belong to one another and that we belong to the Earth. Our future flourishing depends on it. This is not merely a theoretical or intellectual exercise, but work deeply located in our country and in our bodies. It is an important part of the mission of the Small Giants Academy.

Australia – our colonial context

The Small Giants Academy is based in Australia. As well as creative potential and hope, the story of our recent past in Australia carries the stain of brutal colonial policies and actions, which have caused irrevocable destruction to the Aboriginal peoples of this country, and negatively impacted the shared cultural fabric of all Australians. Our colonial history involved the systemic oppression of Indigenous people – the deliberate, institutionalised destruction of the oldest continuing culture alive in the world today.

The Australia we know today was built on principles of hierarchy that enabled discrimination and racism. It continues today in multiple manifestations, whether it be in the perpetuated myth of terra nullius, the unequal application of laws, Indigenous incarceration rates, or the failure to bridge the gap in living conditions and life expectancy of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. We believe it is every Australian’s responsibility to face our past and acknowledge this truth – to work to heal these wounds and to end systemic racism.    

I am proud to share our organisation’s three-part commitment to this work:

1. We commit to building relationships to guide the next steps. A core value in our work is that relationships are everything. When it comes to reconciliation, this is no exception, and thus we seek to build meaningful relationships to guide our steps in this journey.

  • Elder in Residence program: Small Giants Academy is headquartered in St Kilda, or Euroe Yroke, as it was known to the Traditional Owners, the Yalukit Wilam tribe of the Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. Local elder, N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs has agreed to be the Small Giants Elder in Residence. We are honoured to be building this relationship which is key to a grounded connection to Country and place for our team and work. We are grateful that N’arweet has agreed to be our Elder in Residence, to share her wisdom and knowledge with us and to join us in working towards the Next Economy.

2. We commit to learning and listening. We recognise that we are all part of this flawed system, and contribute to it. This is not a statement intended to blame or judge, but rather to present an opportunity to fully take responsibility for ourselves as Australians and as an organisation working towards the Next Economy. Consciousness is about awareness and knowledge, and so we commit to learning about First Nations history, culture and politics, and listening deeply in this process.

  • Each major Small Giants Academy meeting begins with an Acknowledgment of Country. Following the advice of Lydia Fairhall – friend, artist, partner in the work of building the Next Economy and Indigenous Advisor to SGA – each team member has created a personal acknowledgment that locates him or her in the history, culture and stories of the land where they were born, live and work.
  • Each weekly team meeting also starts with an Indigenous learning that a team member has found. This could be related to language, resources or knowledge. This learning is centrally documented.
  • We are committed to ongoing internal workshops that explore decolonisation, unconscious bias and other themes central to reconciliation in Australia.

3. We commit to taking action. We will use what we have to be part of the solution. As an  organisation, we have a number of levers we can pull which contribute to reconciliation and healing, and specifically to supporting Indigenous business, voices and issues.

  • Procurement policy: we have a general Procurement Policy across the Small Giants Collective which, in addition to directing our team to buy from B corporations and ethical businesses, also requires to prioritise Indigenous businesses as identified by Supply Nation, Australia’s leading database of verified Indigenous businesses.
  • Fellowships & Residencies: We have a number of fellowships and internship opportunities which we generally (in non COVID times) run about 3-4 times a year. As soon as we are able to run fellowships again, we commit to making one cohort open to a group of Indigenous young people.  We also have an Artist in Residence program which is run on a monthly basis, set up to build connections to the Artists who are part of our community. The idea is that this is a reciprocal program where artists can contribute to our work and in turn share their own. We commit to ensuring that 25 percent of the Artists in Residence are Indigenous Australians.
  • Platforms: in relation to the platforms we control, we commit to 5-8 contributions from Indigenous peoples in Dumbo Feather magazine, and 20 percent of content on our online platforms. We will open access to our programs and events to ensure Indigenous Australian participation by allocating scholarship places for all events, workshops and programs.  
//---Read time---// //---Share social---//