Wesfarmers’ vision for reconciliation is an Australia that affords equal and equitable opportunities for all. The divisions are focused on ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel welcome as team members, customers, suppliers and visitors.
Wesfarmers was one of the first companies to adopt a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which was published in 2009. We launched our first ‘Elevate’ RAP (the highest level) in June 2022, joining a small but dedicated group of Australian companies and organisations deeply committed to reconciliation.
This Elevate RAP further strengthens Wesfarmers’ strategy to publicly commit to specific, measurable and timebound actions, to drive the Group towards its vision for reconciliation, which is an Australia that affords equal and equitable opportunities for all. It guides the Group’s Indigenous Affairs strategy, which publicly commits Wesfarmers to specific, measurable and timebound actions and drives our vision for reconciliation. Itis focused on five core areas:
- increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team members working in our Businesses
- ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team members access career development and progression, to increase representation at all levels of the Group
- increasing procurement from and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses
- investing in partnerships with organisations that are focused on improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ cultures
Wesfarmers remains focused on developing cultural competency across the Group to help ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel welcome as team members, customers, suppliers and visitors. As one of Australia’s largest employers with a presence in communities across Australia and serving many millions of customers every week, we have an opportunity to accelerate reconciliation in the wider community. To build the cultural competency across the organisation, Wesfarmers’ RAP includes a significant commitment to digital and in-person cultural awareness training (offered to Indigenous and non-Indigenous team members). During the year, 15.5 per cent of Australian-based team members participated in cultural awareness training across the Group.
Wesfarmers is committed to increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our workforce and to support the careers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team members. The size, geographic spread and diverse nature of the divisions means Wesfarmers is uniquely placed to provide employment opportunities at scale to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
During the 2023 financial year, we were pleased to maintain proportional representation, at around 3.3 per cent or 3,689 team members of the Australian workforce identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. This number includes all full-time and part-time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team members and casual team members who have worked a shift within the 30-day period prior to reporting.
Despite having employment parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous team members, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remain underrepresented in management and leadership positions across the Group.
To help close this gap, Wesfarmers partnered with the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre to continue to support the career progression of Indigenous team members through the Wesfarmers Indigenous Leadership Program (WILP), which enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team members to secure a Certificate II or Certificate IV in Indigenous Leadership.
This program supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders across the Group with practical, comprehensive and insightful learnings and experiences to develop and promote management and executive opportunities. The WILP is a cross-divisional program, giving participants the opportunity to develop broad networks and benefit from the experiences of different divisions.
To date more than 100 Indigenous team members have participated in the program, with 42 securing a Certificate II or Certificate IV credential. Coupled with active sponsorship and mentoring, 24 per cent of participants have been promoted or secured expanded roles; and through the program the Group has retained 96 per cent of participants in ongoing employment within Wesfarmers’ businesses.
In addition to this program, divisions are identifying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team members with leadership potential and developing them through existing talent management processes, which include joining bespoke and general training programs offered at a divisional and Group level.
Wesfarmers has also maintained our relationship with CareerTrackers, helping to provide pathways for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals into our businesses.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander procurement
Wesfarmers supports partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suppliers, including as they innovate and scale. With our extensive supply chains, Wesfarmers recognises that increasing our spend with Indigenous suppliers can strengthen economic prosperity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses grow, their economic activity benefits local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the wider Australian economy.
In the 2023 financial year, we increased our spend with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses to $47.5 million of which 94 per cent was with certified Supply Nation businesses.
We awarded a Building Outstanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Business (BOAB) Fund grant to Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation. Through Bunnings, we provided a second BOAB grant to the native title group, Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation (CHAC). The grant supports the continued development of a liquid plant fertiliser made with native sea kelp harvested by CHAC.
Uluru Statement from the Heart
In 2017, more than 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates to the First Nations National Constitutional Convention signed the Uluru Statement from the Heart (Uluru Statement), calling for the establishment of a First Nations Voice to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution.
Since 2018, Wesfarmers has continued to listen and engage closely with team members, suppliers, State and Federal Governments, community partners and other stakeholders to better understand the opportunities the Uluru Statement creates for our businesses and the communities where we operate. Perspectives regarding the First Nations Voice have been shared by our team members with the Wesfarmers Indigenous Network, the Wesfarmers Leadership Team and the Wesfarmers Board.
Wesfarmers has publicly supported the Uluru Statement since 2019. We support the proposal to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice because it aligns with our commitment to reconciliation and we are confident it would deliver improvements from the status quo.
Wesfarmers is focused on supporting organisations that deliver strong, positive social outcomes in the areas where we live and operate. We look to add value to our partner organisations and communities. Community funding is directed to projects and initiatives within our focus areas of medical research and wellbeing, education and the arts. We also endeavour to support organisations that are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led or that have significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community programs.
During the year, we continued to support the Clontarf Foundation, which we have done since 2000. We currently employ 644 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men who are Clontarf alumni and students.
Celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture
Wesfarmers has supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture for more than four decades, commissioning and collecting the work of contemporary Indigenous artists for The Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art and working in partnership with Indigenous artists and cultural organisations in Western Australia and nationally.
We have made contributions to support First Nations arts and cultural initiatives, including the Western Australian regional tour of the Wesfarmers Arts’ commission Koolbardi wer Wardong – Australia’s first work of musical theatre developed entirely in Indigenous language by Nyoongar musician Gina Williams AM and Guy Ghouse for the West Australian Opera.
As Yirra Yaakin Aboriginal Theatre’s Koondarm Koomba (Dream Big) Partner, Wesfarmers Arts provides long-term support for Yirra Yaakin to commission new works of First Nations theatre by emerging and celebrated Indigenous writers in Western Australia and nationally. We have supported Yirra Yaakin, Australia’s largest and most long-standing Aboriginal-led theatre company, since 2016.
As part of our support for communities in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, in the aftermath of flooding in December 2022, our Blackwoods business donated dehumidifiers to assist with stabilising, drying out and conserving the Ngurrara Canvas at the Kimberley Land Council headquarters in Broome.
The culturally significant Ngurrara Canvas was painted by senior Traditional Owners of the Great Sandy Desert of northern Western Australia as an expression of their links to Country and was presented to the National Native Title Tribunal in 1997.
We have also provided flood relief support to the Indigenous owned and operated Mangkaja Art Centre in Fitzroy Crossing, which suffered flood damage, losing works of art, materials and specialist equipment.
In addition to supporting a range of Indigenous cultural organisations and initiatives during the year, we are proud to have been able to acquire work by leading Indigenous artists from across Australia for the Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art, which we share with the community through exhibitions and loans across Australia, internationally and online at Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art.
The highlight of the year – and one of three leadership projects underpinning our Elevate RAP – was the exhibition Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia, developed in partnership with National Gallery Australia. Three years in the making, Ever Present premiered at the Art Gallery of Western Australia from 9 December 2021 to 18 April 2022, and commenced an international tour in Singapore at National Gallery of Singapore from 27 May to 25 September 2022.
Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia
Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia represents the most significant milestone in our 12-year partnership with the National Gallery of Australia (NGA).
Drawn from the NGA collection and The Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art, this exhibition charts the evolution of First Nations art in Australia through more than 150 rare and iconic historical and contemporary works by 178 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across Australia, assembled for a worldwide audience.
In the exhibition’s sole Australian presentation ahead of a two-year international tour, Ever Present launched at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in December 2021, before travelling to the National Gallery Singapore from 26 May to 25 September 2022.
The largest exhibition of First Nations art to travel to Asia, Ever Present features 170 works by more than 80 artists, exploring seven overarching and interlinked themes: Ancestors + Creators; Country + Constellations; Community + Family; Culture + Ceremony; Trade + Influence; Resistance + Colonisation; and Innovation + Identity. The works underline the ever-present existence of the First Peoples of Australia.
‘Ever Present celebrates the creativity, diversity, strength, resilience and pride of early and contemporary Indigenous artists highlighting their artistic, cultural, social and political expressions that reinforce their time immemorial connections and their ever-present presence in this country,’ says Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the National Gallery, Tina Baum.
The exhibition works cover themes of identity, connection, Australia's contested historical narratives, and the contemporary experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists practising today. Each piece reveals the determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to tell their stories in their own way.
Although a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, Ever Present does not shy away from Australia's complex history. The artists contest populist views of Australian history, using art as a tool of resistance and replacing physical weaponry with wit, satire and juxtaposition to confront viewers and encourage conversations that are essential to dispute outdated myths and ideologies.
Ever Present represents important historical and contemporary art produced in Australia and celebrates the central place that Indigenous art occupies in defining the contemporary face of Australia, both at home and to the world.
Ever Present will be presented in New Zealand at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki from 21 July to 30 October 2023.
GRI 3-3, GRI 401-1, GRI 404-2, GRI 405-1