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What is a Reconciliation Action Plan and why is it important for your business?

In the run-up to National Reconciliation Week and this year's theme 'Don't Keep History A Mystery', we spoke with Terence Jeyaretnam, RAP Leader and Partner, Climate Change and Sustainability Services at EY, about Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs) in truly sustainable business practices.

Q. Terence, what is a Reconciliation Action Plan?

A. A Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is an organisational commitment to supporting improved outcomes for Australia’s First Peoples and closing the gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The RAP program provides a framework for achieving this through key areas of action, including:
  • building relationships and trust between the organisation and staff and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations
  • fostering and embedding respect among staff and external stakeholders for the world’s longest surviving cultures and barriers they face
  • improving socio-economic outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities by developing opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship and self-determination
RAPs follow a common structure based on a template of recommended actions and should be endorsed by the coordinating body, Reconciliation Australia (


Q. Why is a Reconciliation Action Plan important for Members of the School?

A. While it is important for organisations in every sector, there are particular opportunities in construction and infrastructure for economic outcomes through apprenticeships and employment. This is relevant in major cities as well as for regional development.

Members of the School will also be seeing increased pressure from their buyers and clients, who have their own commitments and are looking to encourage employment and socio-economic outcomes through their supply chains. The Australian Government implemented the Indigenous Procurement Policy in 2015, setting a target for the number of government contracts awarded to Indigenous businesses as well as Indigenous participation requirements in other large contracts. Many tier 1 developers have similar policies and RAPs that establish targets for their own purchasing from Indigenous enterprises, as well as increasingly setting requirements for their own suppliers and contractors to establish a RAP or employment target.


Q. How do the different stages of a Reconciliation Action Plan relate to a small, medium or large organisation's growth and development?

A. There are four levels of RAP maturity: Reflect, Innovate, Stretch, Elevate. Organisations generally start at Reflect by committing to reconciliation, building relationships and respect, and exploring their scope of influence. Organisations can stay at this level, or often work their way up through Innovate by establishing new initiatives, Stretch by setting targets to improve outcomes, and finally Elevate to take a leadership position in advancing reconciliation.

RAPs may not be applicable to all organisations, especially smaller ones due to their ability to resource initiatives or influence all areas of the framework. However reconciliation is every Australian’s responsibility, and small organisations can still contribute to improved outcomes through increased awareness and engagement without specifically applying the RAP framework. Depending on an organisation’s particular scope of influence, they may focus efforts on creating traineeships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, creating a relationship with an Indigenous charity or mentoring program, inviting a local Elder to speak to staff, or identifying Indigenous suppliers or sub-contractors to partner with.


Q. Can you think of some good examples of Reconciliation Action Plans across Australia's property, construction and infrastructure supply chains?

A. Well if you look around the Supply Chain Sustainability School's Partners there are some excellent examples of organisations taking action through Reconciliation Action Plans, including:

Q. And finally, how can people discover more about Reconciliation Action Plans and their development?

A. Anyone can find out more about EY's work in this area including how we are advocating for the social and economic advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and collaborating with local organisations to develop business, education and employment opportunities at

The industry can also read about how the Green Building Council of Australia's 'Reflect RAP' is raising awareness and gaining support from GBCA’s member companies, as well as laying the groundwork for their future commitments to cultural learning, procurement practices and reconciliation within placemaking. 

And there's a range of resources about RAPs and Indigenous reconciliation more broadly on Reconciliation Australia’s website, including information about how you can get involved in National Reconciliation Week coming up 27 May – 3 June.


The views expressed in this article are the views of the author, not Ernst and Young. This article provides general information, does not constitute advice and should not be relied on as such. Professional advice should be sought prior to any action being taken in reliance on any of the information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards.

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