Reconciliation Week Guidance – a letter from Dr Gordon de Brouwer, APS Commissioner
Dear Secretaries and Agency Heads,
Each year, the Australian Public Service takes part in activities for National Reconciliation Week (27 May to 3 June) as part of our commitment to Australia’s First Nation people and our First Nations staff under the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Islander Workforce Strategy 2020–2024.
The Australian Public Service Commission strongly supports the engagement of APS employees and agencies in Reconciliation Week activities, as part of our broader commitment to strengthening the cultural integrity of the APS.
This year, Reconciliation Week will take place while public servants are providing support to the Government to implement a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in the Australian Constitution. This is an important national conversation, and materials are available for you and your staff to participate in that conversation at www.voice.niaa.gov.au.
The Commission released Engagement in the Voice Referendum in a personal capacity: Guidance for APS employees and agencies on 3 April 2023, to help employees understand their obligations when engaging in the conversation in a personal capacity. The Guidance makes clear that employees can engage publicly with the referendum, provided they do so in a way that is consistent with their obligation to maintain public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the APS.
The Guidance also states: you should not wear or display campaign material in the workplace. Doing so may give the impression that your agency endorses the material, and in some circumstances may raise doubts in the minds of clients or stakeholders as to whether their queries or applications will be handled impartially and respectfully.
This year, noting Reconciliation Australia’s Reconciliation Week theme of ‘Be a Voice for Generations’, it is important that you are mindful of this advice. Reconciliation Australia’s posters and resources displayed as part of Reconciliation Week celebrations include messaging that may be perceived as inconsistent with the impartiality of the APS.
Whatever the case, I strongly encourage you to continue to support and promote Reconciliation Week activities in your agencies, and to continue to demonstrate your commitment to fostering respectful and culturally safe workplaces.
I remain confident you are safeguarding your employees’ well-being and the institutional integrity of the APS in the lead-up to the Voice Referendum.