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Reconciliation in the workplace

By Chris Bonney – Indigenous Relations Advisor at Cushman & Wakefield

As Cushman & Wakefield’s Indigenous Relations Advisor and a proud member of the Narrunga, Gunditjmara and Meintangk people from South Australia, I want to share Cushman & Wakefield’s reconciliation journey and why it’s so crucial that we create a level playing field for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

I come from a resilient family of community leaders, farmers and fishing people – fringe dwellers who lived on the outskirts of Kingston, South Australia. Grandpop was a well-respected shearer and fisherman, and my nanna came from a mission; together, they hoped to build a family home in Kingston. At a time of deep segregation, a petition was circulated to prevent Aboriginal people from settling in town, yet they soon found that the community rallied behind them to defeat the petition and welcome them as neighbours. I am proud of this story, as it shows that there are many people who believe in a welcoming Australia and put value on diversity and inclusion.

I am passionate about levelling the playing field for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and am honoured to work for an organisation that is equally committed. Cushman & Wakefield champions diversity and inclusion in the workplace, in its way of thinking and within its culture, having taken a leading role in reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

In November 2017, Cushman & Wakefield launched its Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) at the Winda Film Festival, Sydney. To create the RAP, we engaged with staff through Cushman & Wakefield’s Indigenous Working Group, as well as community leaders, and we appointed Torres Strait Islander Terri Janke to be the community adviser. Two Indigenous staff members and Chief Executive Officer James Patterson were also appointed as champions of the RAP, and to guide the company on its reconciliation journey.

This was a culmination of Cushman & Wakefield’s reconciliation journey, which began five years ago with a vision to close the gap through placing Indigenous-owned businesses into our supply chain and engaging with their communities. The RAP built on the foundations of relationships, respect and opportunities.

By engaging and building relationships with Indigenous communities and businesses, Cushman & Wakefield and its employees can lead the way in embracing Indigenous culture and people, ensuring that their values and inspirations are reflected in the way we do business.

We have taken steps to ensure that our journey in the reconciliation process will contribute to respect for identity, lands, cultures, business and a shared history.

We will empower people through employment and training, building business opportunities, and strengthening young Indigenous Australians’ education opportunities.

We have adopted Indigenous protocols, which are very important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and we encourage our staff to look at ways that they can adopt these protocols in their own community. A Welcome to Country and an Acknowledgement of Country provides an opportunity for Australians to learn more about Indigenous Australia – the country and the land that they live on.

The Indigenous Employment Strategy has been developed to place Indigenous Australians into Cushman & Wakefield’s employment supply chain.

In facilities management, we have roles that align well with Indigenous culture: welcoming all and taking care of family and community. We already have many facilities managers and coordinators working with our accounts, and we will work with our partners to assist them to meet their RAP targets, too.

Community partnerships are incredibly important to Cushman & Wakefield as a means of supporting capability-building of staff and Indigenous-owned businesses. Partnerships include the Cowboys House, a successful program from the NRL Cowboys that supports Indigenous youths from remote communities in Gulf Country, Queensland, to gain an education in Townsville. We are also proud supporters of Supply Nation, an organisation that works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses, along with procurement teams from government and corporate Australia, to help shape today’s emerging and rapidly evolving Indigenous business sector.

We have set ourselves some significant targets, but I am confident that we will reach what we have set out to achieve. Together, we can close the gap.

“I believe that through our Reconciliation Action Plan, we can educate people and bring Australians together.”

Kayla Johns Noongar-Wangai, Guest Service Agent – Concierge

Kayla works for Cushman & Wakefield at the newly opened Woodside headquarters Mia Yellagonga in Perth. As a Guest Service Agent, Kayla provides Woodside employees and guests with any assistance they may need, whether it is giving directions, providing information on the local area and events, allocating lockers and keys, booking meetings, and everything in between.


“My thoughts on reconciliation [are] about building relationship[s], which can be hard on all accounts, but the Reconciliation Action Plan that Cushman & Wakefield has launched reinforces my beliefs that we can all work together to close the gap.”

Andrew Yarran, Guest Service Valet

Andrew is part of the Workplace Management Team, working as a Guest Service Valet at Mia Yellagonga. He provides superior customer service to all Woodside internal and external employees and visitors.

This interview was originally published in Facility Perspectives Vol 12. No 4 in December 2018.