KPMG Australia books progress on its reconciliation journey

07 June 2021 3 min. read
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KPMG has received an independent review of its Reconciliation Action Plan progress to coincide with Reconciliation Week – continuing a reconciliation journey the firm commenced in 2007.

Big Four professional services firm KPMG has taken the opportunity of National Reconciliation Week to review and celebrate its diversity and inclusion program in respect to First Nations employees, vendors and the community. With Reconciliation Australia – the body which oversees the country’s c (RAP) program – reaching its 20th anniversary this year, the theme for 2021 is “More than a Word: Reconciliation Takes Action”.

KPMG traces its current reconciliation journey back to 2007, when it partnered with Jawun, an organisation which promotes and facilitates Indigenous and corporate partnerships. From there, the firm published its first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) two years later, before in 2013 gaining ‘Elevate’ status from Reconciliation Australia – granted to organisations which take on a leadership position in advancing national reconciliation.

KPMG Australia books progress on its reconciliation journey

Despite the wide-scale disruptions brought about by Covid-19, last year KPMG commissioned Indigenous-owned Sydney-based consultancy Two Point Co. to conduct an independent social audit of its RAP programs to uncover their impacts. Altogether, the firm has exceeded, achieved or made progress against almost 90 percent of its 2017 – 2020 Elevate RAP commitments, with more than two dozen commitments made across a range of dimensions.

Among the highlights of the most recent RAP cycle are the addition of 55 more Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people to the firm’s headcount, the $7 million of pro bono work completed for Indigenous communities across 53 clients, and the further progress made on addressable procurement – with $6.6 million spent in total among 27 Indigenous suppliers since the 2018 financial year and a 3.7 percent rate achieved last year.

The firm also saw 15 Indigenous businesses graduate through its first Indigenous business accelerator program Yarpa Grow, administered in collaboration with the NSW Local Aboriginal Land Council. Beyond the RAP, KPMG, alongside fellow Big four firm PwC, was part of a coalition of a dozen or so organisations to publicly support The Uluru Statement from the Heart and its call to enshrine a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Australian Constitution.

“The truth is that having a RAP document doesn’t generate action just by existing,” writes KPMG Australia Reconciliation Manager Shellee Murphy-Oates. “A RAP document sitting on our website doesn’t create change by itself. It takes many committed and passionate people working behind the scenes to implement policies, develop programs, organise events and activities, run training, consult with clients and create opportunities for people to work with us.”

Still, the firm doesn’t shy away from its recent shortcomings, with cultural safety identified through interviews and focus groups as an important focus for its next RAP cycle. Further, the Two Point Co. audit revealed that only 58 percent of KPMG’s local workforce has completed digital cultural awareness training with Arrilla, a majority Indigenous-owned joint venture partner which provides cultural competency training and consultancy.

“The simple act of talking about reconciliation is, in itself, an action,” concludes Murphy-Oates. “Things like anti-racism, identity politics, cultural safety and historical acceptance are all centred around building understanding and sharing knowledge. It’s all about how people interact with each other: how comfortable we are to share our knowledge and to what extent we feel heard and understood. Just by continuing to talk about reconciliation we’re taking further steps towards achieving it.”