A still from John Harvey's screen art work 'Canopy' (2020), depicting a young girl in a fluorescent pink bathing suit swimming in a pool. The image is shot from above and split into 4 panels.
John Harvey, 'Canopy', 2020, Multi channel video, Commissioned by ACMI*
Reports & Policies

Reconciliation Action Plan 2021–2023

Our steps to building positive and reciprocal relationships with First Peoples.

Message from Reconciliation Australia

Reconciliation Australia commends ACMI on the formal endorsement of its inaugural Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Commencing an Innovate RAP is a crucial and rewarding period in an organisation’s reconciliation journey. It is a time to build strong foundations and relationships, ensuring sustainable, thoughtful, and impactful RAP outcomes into the future. Since 2006, RAPs have provided a framework for organisations to leverage their structures and diverse spheres of influence to support the national reconciliation movement.

This Innovate RAP is both an opportunity and an invitation for ACMI to expand its understanding of its core strengths and deepen its relationship with its community, staff, and stakeholders. By investigating and understanding the integral role it plays across its sphere of influence, ACMI will create dynamic reconciliation outcomes, supported by and aligned with its business objectives.

An Innovate RAP is the time to strengthen and develop the connections that form the lifeblood of all RAP commitments. The RAP program’s framework of relationships, respect, and opportunities emphasises not only the importance of fostering consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities, but also empowering and enabling staff to contribute to this process, as well.

With over 2.3 million people now either working or studying in an organisation with a RAP, the program’s potential for impact is greater than ever. ACMI is part of a strong network of more than 1,100 corporate, government, and not-for-profit organisations that have taken goodwill and intention, and transformed it into action.

Implementing an Innovate RAP signals ACMI’s readiness to develop and strengthen relationships, engage staff and stakeholders in reconciliation, and pilot innovative strategies to ensure effective outcomes. Getting these steps right will ensure the sustainability of future RAPs and reconciliation initiatives, and provide meaningful impact toward Australia’s reconciliation journey.

Congratulations ACMI on your Innovate RAP and I look forward to following your ongoing reconciliation journey.

Karen Mundine
Chief Executive Officer
Reconciliation Australia

Introduction

ACMI is proud to be launching our first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), at this transformative time for our museum. As we relaunch the renewed institution following two years of planning and capital works, our commitment to ensuring that First Peoples are recognised as being at the centre of Australian culture is as strong as it has ever been. This RAP will help to guide us towards, and be accountable for, achieving the ambitious actions outlined in this document. I would like to thank Terri Janke for leading this process with ACMI and our Board especially Darren Dale and Tasneem Chopra OAM. I would also like to thank our First Nations Curators Louana Sainsbury, Kate ten Buuren and Eugenia Flynn and our RAP Working Group particularly Georgina Russell (Chair), Lesley Gillan and Sarah Tutton for all their hard work in developing this important plan.

In 2021, our museum reopened. This renewal has given us the opportunity to reset and to consider deeply how we ensure, as Australia’s national museum of screen culture, that First Peoples’ culture and creativity is at the heart of our museum and we reflect where ACMI is situated – we tell a global story, in Australia, on Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung land. Our renewal enables ACMI to continue to expand the impact of our museum in a changing world, encouraging discovery, curiosity and media literacy and supporting our commitment to championing First Peoples artists, practitioners and stories.

Our Corporate Strategy 2020–2024 states our beliefs that:

  • First Peoples culture is at the centre of Australian culture
  • commitment to diversity and inclusivity is ongoing work and must be continuously championed
  • our museum must strive to be accessible, reflective and welcoming of all our communities.

To bring these values to life, ACMI will seek a holistic strategic approach.

The First Peoples of Australia have used sound and image – the building blocks of our form – to tell stories for thousands of generations, from the use of light and shadow to our contemporary screen culture, and their story-telling and creative practices are at the heart of our story of the moving image. First Peoples screen makers are leaders in the Australian industry across every touchpoint our museum explores – film, television, videogames and art – and as the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, we are deeply committed to celebrating their practice. This RAP is a long overdue pathway to achieving these goals towards reconciliation.

– Katrina Sedgwick, ACMI Director & CEO

Our Business

Established by the Victorian Government in 2002, ACMI is Australia’s museum of screen culture. We navigate the universe of film, TV, art and videogames, celebrating the past, present and future of the moving image. We present a vibrant calendar of exhibitions, screenings, commissions, festivals, public, industry and education programs that people can engage with at home, on their devices and in our physical Federation Square and ACMI X buildings.

We are the most successful museum of our kind in the world attracting millions of visitors to our museum and our touring exhibitions, nationally and internationally. In our last full year of operation, prior to closing for redevelopment in May 2019, ACMI in Federation Square was visited by more than 1.5 million people, with another 500,000+ visiting our touring exhibitions around Australia and overseas.

Since May 2019 we have been undergoing a $40m transformation to become a world leading multiplatform museum. We tell a global story, through an Australian lens, and our First Peoples are at the heart of what we do, how we do it and the stories we tell.

ACMI operates two sites on First Peoples’ land. The ACMI museum at Federation Square and ACMI X office at Southbank are situated on the lands of the Kulin Nation. ACMI acknowledges and respects the ongoing relationship that the Wurundjeri people, the Boon Wurrung people and other First Peoples Custodians have with their lands and waters.

At December 2020, ACMI has a First Peoples Board Director, Darren Dale (since July 2019) and Board Observer, Candice Bowditch (through the Observership Program) and across our 135 staff, one full time and three part time employees who identify as First People.

ACMI is an instigator, collaborator, nurturer, educator and innovator – working with practitioners, institutions, businesses and networks across the creative industries and education sectors. We are committed to reimagining, with First Peoples, the way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are represented in our exhibitions and programs. This means amplifying First Peoples’ voices through deeper engagement to ensure self-representation.

ACMI actively supports the Victorian Government’s Creative State strategies and the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions’ 2019–23 Strategic Plan. We support additional Government priorities, particularly the visitor economy through Visit Victoria and education through the Department of Education and Training. ACMI subscribes to the First Peoples Roadmap for Enhancing Indigenous Engagement in Museums and Galleries and is committed to reaching the critical pathways outlined in the document through our RAP actions outlined below.

Our Vision for Reconciliation

ACMI believes that First Nations culture is at the centre of Australian culture. Our museum is committed to playing an active role in strengthening the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians, for the benefit of all Australians. We understand that our commitment to diversity and inclusivity is ongoing work and must be continuously championed – and that this must be reflected by creating an inclusive museum that places First Nations culture at the centre of what we do – within our workplace, throughout our programming and who our audiences are.

We see our role in contributing to reconciliation as:

  1. Building recognition and respect for First Peoples through the presentation of ongoing programs that celebrate their artworks, histories, cultures and stories across the past present and future of the moving image
  2. Listen to and learn from the knowledge and experience of First Peoples past and present especially in matters affecting Country
  3. Building strong and lasting relationships with First Peoples, based on principles of equal partnership, social justice and respect for past history in order to make a positive impact where it is needed most.
  4. Supporting the development of a Victorian Treaty and the Uluru Statement from the Heart by encouraging constitutional change and structural reform to empower First Peoples with recognition and voice.

Our RAP

ACMI’s inaugural RAP sets out our steps to build positive and reciprocal relationships with First Peoples in our workplace, through our partnerships and collaborations, in our programming and with our audiences. The RAP will guide us to achieve contemporary best practice in our governance and management to support reconciliation.

Guided by our RAP, ACMI will build the capacity of First Peoples through employment, internships and career development opportunities through our staff cohort, and with artists and practitioners through commissions, exhibitions, curatorial programming and creative collaborations, business procurement and more. We will ensure Acknowledgement of Country across all of our digital and physical platforms, and that the ACMI collection appropriately acknowledges and pays respect to First Peoples as the custodians of the material. All new and existing staff will participate in cultural awareness development. We will establish engagement strategies to invite in First Peoples as regular audiences at ACMI.

Our RAP Working Group has 13 members including one staff member who identifies as First People. The current group is Chaired by Director of Development, Georgina Russell and represents a range of ACMI departments with members including our Brand Manager; Building Operations Manager; Chief Curator; Exhibitions Coordinator; Head of ACMI X & Public Programs; Head of Collections & Preservation; Head of Education; Head of Experience, Product & Digital; Head of People & Culture; Senior Executive Coordinator; Senior Exhibitions Project Coordinator; and Visitor Experience Supervisor.

We will share updates from RAP Working Group meetings with our First Peoples staff and Indigenous Advisory Group.

ACMI’s Executive will set targets and, with our Board, regularly measure our performance. We will support our RAP Working Group and establish an ongoing Indigenous Advisory Group that will play a key role in feeding into and monitoring the progress of our actions. Outcomes will be reported internally and publicly and a range of communications channels will be used to share our achievements. Before we draft our next plan, we will evaluate what has worked and ask for feedback so we can build on our success.

Director & CEO Katrina Sedgwick is the champion of our RAP and will advocate for reconciliation at ACMI both internally and externally.

Our Renewal

In May 2019 ACMI closed its doors to undertake a major capital works program encompassing architectural, programmatic and technological changes. Our commitment to the First Peoples of Australia is a central tenet to this project and has led to some significant shifts in our offer to the public, our ways of working and our engagement with our community.

The new ACMI recognises that storytelling through the moving image and the technology of screen culture, are only very recent in comparison with the long continuum of First Peoples storytelling on this land. As we look to the future of the moving image in Australia, First Peoples’ stories are leading the way forward with hope, beauty, strength, humour and truth. This future is increasingly inclusive, diverse, collaborative and globally renowned.

“Across the history of screen culture, Australia’s First Peoples have been represented through the lens of the ‘white gaze’. First Peoples have been portrayed as both exotic curiosity on the one hand and as stereotypically deficient on the other.

It was in the 1970s that First Peoples began to step behind the camera in more significant numbers. Indigenous people use the moving image as a way of returning the gaze, looking back and looking at one another. In addition to celebrating, practicing and sharing culture, this gaze continues to resist and disrupt popularly held notions of Australian identity, place and nationhood.

The moving image as a tool for self-representation is an important principle for the majority of First Peoples engaging with the medium of the moving image and is a fundamental principal in our new museum.”

– First Nations Curatorial Team, exhibition handbook, 2020

Across key touchstones throughout our building, the principle of self-representation and self-determination is threaded through our programs and content. This includes a series of major new film and art commissions and a new approach to interpretation that foregrounds First Peoples’ perspectives. Visitors will encounter major new works by Gunditjmara Keerray Woorroong artist Vicki Couzens and Torres Strait Islander artist, director and producer John Harvey (featured on the cover of this document) as well as new films and artworks by some of Australia’s most renowned and exciting established and emerging First Peoples practitioners.

We are also engaging with Traditional Owners to create two short films that recognises Traditional Owner groups, the Wurundjeri peoples and the Boon Wurrung peoples, on whose land ACMI is located and operates, that will sit at the entrances to our buildings and digital platforms. These films will be created in consultation with representative Elders from each of groups.

Our Renewal has been guided by our Indigenous Advisory Group, that was established in April 2018 for this purpose. This group has been facilitated by our First Nations Curatorial Team and chaired by former ACMI Board Director Rachael Maza OAM. The members of this group are ACMI First Nations Curators Eugenia Flynn, Louana Sainsbury and Kate Ten Buuren, with N’arweet Carolyn Briggs, Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin, Penny Smallacombe and John Harvey. Following the completion of our renewal, in 2021 the role of the Indigenous Advisory Group will shift to a broader focus across ACMI’s general business and programming activity, with Director & CEO Katrina Sedgwick attending IAG meetings.

Relationships

ACMI looks to build trust and develop mutually beneficial relationships with First Peoples communities, businesses and individuals. Strong relationships are key to presenting authentic and empowering programs and events and ensuring that there is a shared responsibility for the First Peoples material in the ACMI collection.

See actions, deliverables, timeframes and responsibilities in the RAP document (pages 11–12).

Respect

ACMI acknowledges the importance of First Peoples and their cultures to Australian history and identity. ACMI looks to embed First Peoples’ values across the organisation in order to make First Peoples feel welcome and safe. This includes building a better organisational awareness of First Peoples’ cultures, histories and protocols.

See actions, deliverables, timeframes and responsibilities in the RAP document (pages 13–14).

Opportunities

First Peoples are encouraged to work and progress their careers at ACMI. ACMI also looks to engage First Peoples owned business in the organisation’s supply chain, acknowledging the economic benefits that First Peoples business brings to local communities.

See actions, deliverables, timeframes and responsibilities in the RAP document (page 15).

Governance, tracking progress and reporting

To ensure that ACMI continually progresses towards its vision for reconciliation, it will regularly review and report against RAP deliverables, noting achievements, challenges and learnings.

See actions, deliverables, timeframes and responsibilities in the RAP document (pages 16).

Contact

Georgina Russell
Director of Development and Chair of ACMI’s Reconciliation Working Group
E: Georgina.Russell@acmi.net.au
T: 03 8663 2375

*About the artwork

Our RAP cover shows an image from a multi channel video installation Canopy (2020) by Torres Strait Islander artist, director and producer John Harvey. Canopy was commissioned for our centrepiece exhibition The Story of the Moving Image and is on permanent display. The work examines First Peoples’ self-representation as an important principle in the engagement with the moving image and refutes the history of representing our First People through the lens of the ‘white gaze’.

“The canopy is teeming with life. It is a place where the biodiversity of species ensures the survival of us all. Through the imagery in my work, I’m exploring layers of being, from the individual to family, clan, culture, country and finally, to consciousness. Canopy invites audiences to still their minds and experience the work as a meditation with an open spirit and heart. It contains my home movies along with films I’ve written and directed.” – John Harvey

Canopy (2020)
John Harvey, Saibai Island
Multi-screen installation
Commissioned by ACMI
Film edited by Patrick McCabe
Footage courtesy Mravicic Films, Brown Cabs, Lydia Fairhall and John Harvey