Skip to Content

Reconciliation & beyond – our Cultural Competency Framework

Cissy Gore-Birch (Executive Manager Aboriginal Engagement)
Published 26 May 2021 
about   

The Birriliburu Rangers with Bush Heritage Ecologist Vanessa Westcott. Photo by Annette Ruzicka<br/> The Birriliburu Rangers with Bush Heritage Ecologist Vanessa Westcott. Photo by Annette Ruzicka
Bush Heritage CEO, Heather Campbell and Aboriginal Engagement Executive Manager Cissy Gore-Birch<br/> Bush Heritage CEO, Heather Campbell and Aboriginal Engagement Executive Manager Cissy Gore-Birch

Our work with Aboriginal people and communities is central to our values, vision, purpose and conservation success.

We work in partnership with 25 Aboriginal groups on their land and sea country and collaborate through meaningful engagement with Traditional Owners on the 37 reserves that we manage for conservation.

We acknowledge Aboriginal peoples’ long and rich history in looking after country, their ongoing and invaluable role in modern conservation and their right to self-determination. We are proud that Aboriginal people choose to work with us so that together we may better understand and manage the land under our care.

We recognise that working together through respectful right-way relationships is the only way to look after country, to provide lasting and significant outcomes for landscapes, species and people.

This is a recognition shared across our organisation; from our CEO and board, to our senior leadership and Aboriginal engagement teams and our staff on the ground, as well as those based in Melbourne’s conservation support centre.

Looking after country together is an important step on our shared journey towards true reconciliation.

While some organisations adopt a Reconciliation Action Plan to drive practical actions towards reconciliation, Bush Heritage has opted for a Cultural Competency Framework to suit our unique vision.

The framework is an essential document for all staff. It was developed by the strong Aboriginal leaders of our Aboriginal Engagement team and outlines ways to embed cultural competency into everything we do.

With such a significant portion of our conservation work undertaken in partnership with Aboriginal people, the framework outlines the tools and support systems necessary to create and maintain strong and healthy relationships with Aboriginal people and communities.

It says much about who we are, our lived values, and the actions that can underpin a shared journey towards looking after country, the right way, with Aboriginal decision-makers at the helm. It's an important step to bringing everyone at Bush Heritage onto the same page.

The Cultural Competency Framework was first adopted in 2019 and was rolled out organisation-wide.

Key areas of focus

  • Organisation: creating a workplace culture that values, prioritises, rewards and fosters cultural competency
  • Systems: implementing policies, procedures, resources and monitoring progress to embed and grow competency across the organisation
  • Individual: improving awareness of cultural biases, and supporting staff to learn and turn this into practice in daily communications, work activities and personal lives
  • Professional: prioritising cultural competency for professional development and education.

Cultural competence is an ongoing process that requires continuous assessment and reflection from all of us. As late Aboriginal leader Dr. Alf Bamblett said, "Culture is to people as water is to fish." We take our own culture for granted as it's part of our identity and part of our very being. Becoming culturally competent requires a shift in thinking as well as in practice.

We are proud to be part of this shift.

Cultural competency is an ongoing and living process. Our Aboriginal Engagement team continue to review this process and develop new and adaptive ways to ensure that we're always striving to strengthen our cultural understanding and implement a right-way approach across our organisation and in all facets of our work.

The Birriliburu Rangers with Bush Heritage Ecologist Vanessa Westcott. Photo by Annette Ruzicka<br/> The Birriliburu Rangers with Bush Heritage Ecologist Vanessa Westcott. Photo by Annette Ruzicka
Bush Heritage CEO, Heather Campbell and Aboriginal Engagement Executive Manager Cissy Gore-Birch<br/> Bush Heritage CEO, Heather Campbell and Aboriginal Engagement Executive Manager Cissy Gore-Birch