In 2020, the theme of NAIDOC Week is 'Always Was, Always Will Be', recognising that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years.
Private Bank Adviser, Maria Wilson, and Business Analyst, Todd Crawford, are two Macquarie employees who are involved in the Macquarie First Nations Employee Network Group. They share their stories and why NAIDOC Week is important to them.
Maria Wilson was born in New Zealand and raised in Fiji.
"My mother was an English teacher at a local Fijian school and I grew up surrounded by First Nations art, The Dreaming stories, and culture."
When Maria arrived in Sydney with an arts degree in the 1980s, she thought that First Nations culture would be visibly woven into the fabric of the city and was surprised to see that it wasn't.
Maria joined Macquarie in 2012 and is currently a Private Bank Advisor and Division Director in the Melbourne office.
"When I joined the workforce in corporate Australia, I noticed the working population didn't reflect the diverse populations of cities like Sydney or Melbourne," observes Maria. While there has been change, there are some stubborn statistics in relation to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
"Looking at the gap in life expectancy, health, education, employment or incarceration outcomes, the figures are stark."
"Diversity is something you need to keep working at - whether it is ethnicity, gender, geography, there's a big push to make it inclusive and representative at all levels."
"I've witnessed an immense change in diversity and inclusion at Macquarie and more broadly in the last decade."
Shortly after joining Macquarie, Maria attended a conference where she was introduced to the Clontarf Foundation, a non-profit organisation that assists in the education and employment of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men through its academies. Maria struck up a relationship with the Foundation in Melbourne.
Macquarie has several ongoing initiatives that work towards increasing cultural awareness, and diversity, equity and inclusion with First Nations people. These include partnerships such as employees going on secondment with Jawun to remote Indigenous Communities as well as establishing a First Nations Employee Network Group (ENG). Maria co-chairs Macquarie's First Nations ENG and has forged a relationship with Melbourne Indigenous Transition School (MITS). The ENG's partnerships have grown and today include Clontarf Foundation, MITS, CareerTrackers, Girls Academy and Gawura.
"These partnerships are rich on so many levels," says Maria. "It's been amazing for the students, but also for our employees. They learn as much as we do and it gives students and young graduates an opportunity to see what might lie ahead."
Macquarie hosts students, attends events, visits schools, and opens the door to discuss funding support or other needs, including grants from the Macquarie Group Foundation.
"Building pathways to employment through education is a key objective of the First Nations ENG," Maria explains. "But we also need to ensure our organisation is culturally aware and offer use of our business skills where we can through pro bono work or volunteering."
The First Nations ENG has also undertaken other initiatives like connecting Indigenous organisations with the Metro Martin Place project to design public spaces.
"We've achieved a lot but I am almost overwhelmed by how much more there is to do," says Maria. "This summer we will have 18 CareerTrackers interns, the largest number we've ever had."
"We have some way to go on cultural awareness, and understanding First Nations People's connection to land, or how history points to the many issues we have today," says Maria.
"NAIDOC Week gives Australians the chance to reflect on 65,000 years of cultural history, sustainability and resilience. We all have a part to play in that, but it shouldn't just be one week of the year - it should be every day."
Todd Crawford grew up in Roma, a small town in western Queensland, seven hours drive from Brisbane.
"I wasn't particularly academic and undertook a school-based apprenticeship," Todd explains. "The electronics part of the TAFE course required me to go to Brisbane and that opened my eyes to a whole new world that I hadn't known existed."
Todd discovered he enjoyed studying and, after finishing his apprenticeship, he returned to Brisbane to embark on a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering at QUT.
He also connected with CareerTrackers, a national non-profit program that creates paid internship opportunities for Indigenous students, and provides support systems for Indigenous students to attend and graduate from university.
Through CareerTrackers, Todd completed several internships, including with Macquarie. This inspired him to incorporate finance into his degree. When Todd completed his university studies in 2019, he moved to Sydney to join Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA) in the Graduate Program.
Todd credits CareerTrackers with opening many doors for him, from mentoring support to tutoring, funding and networking opportunities.
"The link between what you're studying and the real world that CareerTrackers provide through internships, like the one I did at Macquarie, is invaluable," Todd says. "I would never have considered a career in finance without CareerTrackers introducing me to it."
But he says Macquarie as an organisation ended up being the real attraction.
"Macquarie is known for being cutting edge, having a flat structure, and valuing diversity," Todd says. "Macquarie is ultimately why I wanted to work in banking."
"The growing number of students in each CareerTrackers intake shows the success of the program and the level of support Macquarie offers."
Todd found MIRA was a natural fit for him as it combines his background in engineering with finance.
"I work in the Client Solutions Group," says Todd. "CSG fundraises and develops global products for the MIRA business and its clients. I am currently working closely with the wider MIRA team on new product establishment."
Todd enjoys working on diverse projects and says the opportunities at Macquarie feel limitless.
"I was amazed by the responsibility and variety I had right from the start."
"Last year I travelled to Singapore and Bangkok. Every day is interesting and I'm always learning."
Todd has also been involved in Macquarie's First Nations ENG and believes the organisation is making steps in the right direction.
"Diversity is valued at Macquarie and it's not static, we're constantly updating our diversity strategy, which is positive."
For Todd, NAIDOC Week is a point of reflection, but also a positive awareness raising opportunity about wider issues.
"Role modelling is really important," Todd says. I wish someone had come to my school in Roma and told me I didn't need to be an A+ student to achieve success."
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