More than a word: how KPMG takes action for reconciliation

This year Reconciliation Australia celebrates it’s 20th anniversary. That’s 20 years of building the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) framework; of guiding all types of organisations of different sizes in various industries in how they can take action to produce positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The theme for this year’s National Reconciliation Week, “More than a Word: Reconciliation Takes Action”, feels very timely to me. It’s a good prompt for us to stop and reflect, have our actions created change?

KPMG’s reconciliation journey

KPMG was on its reconciliation journey well before I joined the firm. Their first step was to partner with Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships in 2007, which had such an impact on our people it inspired the firm to publish its first RAP in 2009. Our commitments have grown and grown, and in recognition of the firm’s commitment in Reconciliation Australia awarded KPMG Elevate status for our RAPs since 2013. Last year we contracted an Indigenous consultancy, Two Point Co. to conduct an independent social audit of our RAP programs to uncover what impacts we have had.

So, where have we been successful, where have we failed, and what do we want to see happen next?

Our performance

Overall, KPMG has exceeded, achieved or made progress against 89 percent of the commitments made in the 2017 – 2020 Elevate RAP. We communicate this in terms of ‘progress’ because just measuring the commitments we ‘achieved’ or ‘exceeded’ doesn’t fully communicate the impact we’ve generated through our work.

We’ve made significant strides particularly in our commitments to further social and economic participation. Here are some of the highlights:

  • $6.6million spent with 27 Indigenous suppliers across FY18-20. In FY20 we spent 3.7 percent of our addressable procurement spend with Indigenous businesses.
  • 15 Indigenous businesses graduated through KPMG’s first Indigenous business accelerator program, Yarpa Grow, in collaboration with NSW Local Aboriginal Land Council
  • 55 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people hired since 2017, exceeding our initial target
  • $7million of pro bono work completed for Indigenous communities, across 53 clients

Areas for improvement

Through interviews and focus groups, we identified cultural safety is an area we need to focus on in the next RAP lifecycle. The audit uncovered that only 58 percent of our workforce has completed the Arrilla Digital Cultural Awareness Training, falling well short of our target of 70 percent. This supports the findings from the RAP Workplace Barometer Survey, which shows that while we are increasing our positive perceptions of Indigenous peoples, cultures and history, not everyone is supportive or understands our efforts. We still have a way to go to reach everyone.

We also just missed out on some of our key targets, however that doesn’t mean we didn’t generate significant positive impacts for the people effected. For example, KPMG awarded 5 out of the target of 6 tertiary scholarships committed to in our last RAP. So, on paper this tells us we haven’t achieved our goal. However, the impact of a scholarship can potentially be life changing. Take it from me – I was awarded the 2012 KPMG Pathways Scholarship for an Indigenous Student in Business at UTS, and through that opportunity I was offered an entry level role at KPMG. Seven years later and I’m now running the RAP program and am helping to create opportunities for people currently in the position I was in all those years ago. The true value of a scholarship is so much more than numbers on a page.

So what’s next?

The truth is that having a RAP document doesn’t generate action just by existing. A RAP document sitting on our website doesn’t create change by itself. It takes many committed and passionate people working behind the scenes to implement policies, develop programs, organise events and activities, run training, consult with clients and create opportunities for people to work with us. I’m incredibly lucky to be part of a strong team of dedicated professionals leading change both within and outside of this organisation. And we’re not pulling any punches.

The murder of George Floyd and the following Black Lives Matter protests caused us to challenge ourselves to address racism. Many of our people are still personally affected by racism, and those that aren’t expressed deep, personal concern about the continuing racial injustice in the world. To listen and learn from one another, KPMG ran a global Courageous Conversations campaign with our people. Worldwide over 72 hours, more than 17,000 of our colleagues participated in a virtual discussion, contributing their ideas, insights and personal stories on the racial injustice they see or experience. A collective action plan was created from the insights garnered through this dialogue, to demonstrate how we will make a real and lasting difference towards our collective goal of improved racial equity within and outside of KPMG globally.

We’re continuing this good work in our internal event for National Reconciliation Week this year. We’ll be hosting a national ‘Ask me Anything’ session virtually, where myself a handful of my Indigenous colleagues across the country will be discussing some of the challenges we face being Indigenous in a corporate setting. We hope that through this conversation we will not only bust some myths our non-Indigenous colleagues might have, but also invite them to take further steps on their own journey.

The simple act of talking about reconciliation is, in itself, an action. Things like anti-racism, identity politics, cultural safety and historical acceptance are all centred around building understanding and sharing knowledge. It’s all about how people interact with each other: how comfortable we are to share our knowledge and to what extent we feel heard and understood. Just by continuing to talk about reconciliation we’re taking further steps towards achieving it.

My one call to everyone this Reconciliation Week is to strike up a conversation with your family, friends or colleagues. Demonstrating allyship can be as simple as inspiring others to think more deeply about Indigenous culture and history and sharing how you feel about it with honesty and empathy.

Social change happens one person at a time, but the impacts can be felt for a lifetime.

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