Parks Vic supporting Aboriginal staff

Aboriginal and traditional owner partners at Parks Victoria are receiving support for better safety and wellbeing through a new employment plan.

The Aboriginal Employment and Wellbeing Plan was launched by Parks Victoria during NAIDOC week in July, and formally introduced to Aboriginal staff at a staff conference in October.

Wendy Berick

Wendy Berick, Aboriginal People and Culture Officer for Parks Victoria and proud Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta woman, said Parks Victoria recognised the importance of developing a plan to address issues raised by employees over the years.

“It’s really about building capacity, creating a culturally safe and competent Parks Victoria, supporting our Parks Victoria Aboriginal employees and traditional owner partners, and unlocking employment opportunities and collaborating with our Caring for Our Country partners and Traditional Owners,” she told Government News.

The plan aims to create a culturally safe and competent organisation for Aboriginal staff, provide career support, bring more Aboriginal people into park management, and provide ongoing preservation and protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage sites.

A priority initiative in the plan is to build the cultural capacity and ability of all of Parks Victoria, Ms Berick says.

To help bring this about, a number of culture awareness and building capacity programs have been delivered to the Parks Victoria board, executive team and executive clerks, including every director in the organisation.

“It was important to capture the senior leadership firstly to build their understanding and capacity, and for them to take up that leadership role in ensuring that they share their learnings with their own teams,” Ms Berick said.

Unique state recognition of Traditional Owners

Parks Victoria’s partnership with Traditional Owners recognises the unique state recognition and responsibility given to them for the protection and preservation of Aboriginal heritage on their country.

“Our staff work closely with them in anything to do with preservation or protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage sites,” Ms Berick said.

The partnership also recognises the state recognition for native title, and has established joint management of several parks with traditional owner corporations, including Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation and Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporations.

Under the employment plan, a specific Aboriginal wellbeing officer has been appointed to check in with Aboriginal employees, provide advice and to link them to other support mechanisms and services.

“Because we’ve got so much work to do with all the initiatives and the plan, I’m grateful to have another resource to support me to do that,” Ms Berick said.

Cultural and ceremonial leave entitlements

She said Parks Victoria is one of the first organisations in the country to provide cultural or ceremonial leave entitlements to its Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander workforce. This enables them to take time off to undertake cultural obligations back on their country.

“We were grateful to have our four different union representatives supporting that entitlement and endorsing it along with our executives within the organisation. So that’s a really great achievement, that’s one of my proudest achievements,” she said.

Ms Berick would like to see the whole of Parks Victoria coming along the journey with Traditional Owners and being really committed to them.

“There’s a definite shift in the way that country is going to be managed into the future with these joint management and outcomes and agreements,” she said.

“And we’re reliant on the whole of Parks Victoria to come along and be committed to building that cultural capability and capacity for everybody because it’s the whole community that will benefit.”

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