Up to 30% of Wesley Mission Queensland office staff chose to work on Australia Day
Wesley Mission Queensland has given staff the option to work on the Australia Day public holiday, recognising the conflicting emotions this date has for the community and in particular First Nations people.
The move has been driven by the organisation’s Reconciliation Action Plan committee and has been well received by its workforce.
Wesley Mission Queensland CEO Jude Emmer said while not everyone has taken up the option to swap the public holiday – largely due to the nature of service delivery and availability of childcare - the feedback received is that Australia Day is changing and many simply don’t celebrate.
‘Our teams are grateful to be given the option to decide themselves whether they work Australia Day or not and we anticipate the number of employees swapping the public holiday to triple next year,’ Ms Emmer said.
‘WMQ’s vision is for a compassionate, just and inclusive society for all, and acknowledging this date is difficult for many people is an important step in the journey towards reconciliation.
To many, 26 January represents the start of policies and practices that sought to gradually eradicate First Nations people, their culture, and language - removal from their lands, massacre, slavery and the Stolen Generations.
‘WMQ has chosen to use this date as an opportunity to live out our values, support social change, and empower our employees. We stand in solidarity with First Nations people and those who choose not to recognise 26 January as a day of celebration’.
Ms Emmer said it was a good opportunity to have frank discussions about Australia’s past and the impacts this has for First Nations people today.
‘I understand this topic can be divisive but engaging in a dialogue about what it means for different people can only help us reach a better understanding.
‘I know from my own conversations many people are surprised to find out that 26 January has not always been a day of celebration and in fact was only became a public holiday across the nation in 1994.
‘Privilege is when you don’t consider something to be a problem because it doesn’t affect you personally. If the date is not believed to be a big deal, then a valid argument could be made for changing it to a date that unifies us and allows all to celebrate’.
What does January 26 mean to you?
In the video below we ask some of our team, both First and Second Nations, what 26 January means to them.