• Rob Scott - Wesfarmers CEO and MD
    Rob Scott - Wesfarmers CEO and MD

Wesfarmers CEO and MD Rob Scott has taken to LinkedIn to encourage Australians to reflect on January 26 and the impact it has on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

The message comes after Wesfarmers re-attained employment parity, with 3.4% of its workforce now represented by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island team members. 

"Employment parity is an important, practical reconciliation commitment that broadens our recruitment pool to attract new, diverse talent to the Group, and which inevitability makes our businesses stronger and helps them to perform better, over the long term," Scott said in the statement. 

"With this amazing accomplishment, I am motivated to find new ways to grow the profile and impact of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team members, and I know I share this ambition with the Leadership Team," he said. 

As part of this action, Scott detailed discussion he had with a group of local WA-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team members in November last year. 

"From that discussion, I was left in no doubt that January 26 is a difficult day for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team members.

"I recognise the sensitivities around a date which means many things to a lot of people.

"There are also many people who enjoy the opportunity to celebrate what it means to be Australian.

"However, I’d encourage you to do some research," he continued. 

"When did it become a national holiday? Why does it create debate each year? And what does it mean to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?

"Regardless of how you choose to mark the day, please be respectful of each other.

"The journey to reconciliation may be a long one, but it is one that I am committed to, and respect will be important, along the way.

"To me, that means listening and learning, and showing empathy," he said. 

First Nations-led not-for-profit Common Ground details the reasons why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do not celebrate the day. 

"January 26 1788 is the day Sir Arthur Phillip raised the British flag at Warrane (Sydney Cove) to claim the land as a British Colony," the organisation said. 

"This day marks the beginning of a long and brutal colonisation of people and land.

"On 26 January each year people in Australia are asked to celebrate a national holiday, now called Australia Day.

"But Australia Day celebrations are not generally embraced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as well as some non-Indigenous people.

"For many First Nations people this day is recognised as Survival Day or Invasion Day.

"Because from this day in 1788 onwards, First Nations people suffered massacres, land theft, stolen children and widespread oppression at the hands of the colonising forces.

"For First Nations people, January 26 is a day of mourning the history that followed the arrival of Sir Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet," Common Ground said. 

January 26 was declared a national holiday in 1994. 

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