A Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is a program that outlines the practical steps in building better relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. Any organisation can embark on a RAP and Reconciliation Australia provides the resources and know-how.
Does your museum need one?
Because museums are repositories of cultural and local histories, embarking on a RAP is a way of engaging the local Indigenous community to ensure their narratives form part of the stories told in your museum.
Given the importance of oral traditions in their history-making, Aboriginal people are sources of local information and significant insight which provides refreshing perspectives on local history. Elders of Indigenous communities possess a depth of knowledge about the way their people lived in the area before and after colonization.
It’s not unusual for small to medium museums to have Aboriginal material in their collections that exists without story or context. These objects were often collected without provenance or a documented process of acquisition. Often they were ‘souvenired’ from local peoples, sometimes without permission or authority to display them and without understanding their relevance and use.
Consulting with and documenting artefacts and the stories around them can be a focus of your museum’s RAP and can result in strong interpretative displays where objects and artefacts are given real context and meaning.
Embarking on a RAP is a way of engaging the local Indigenous community to ensure their narratives form part of the stories told in your museum.
There are excellent examples of collaborative projects, many of them producing goodwill and reciprocal cultural understanding, and a great beginning on which to build a RAP.
In 2013, the Port of Yamba Historical Society developed the Vision4Change exhibition. The collaborative exhibition of mixed media works included several public events, one of which was a ‘Meet the Elders’ afternoon. Local Yaegl people shared their culture and expressed pride in their heritage and achievements. The audience learned about the Yaygirr Dictionary and Grammar and the current Bush Medicine books that are being produced in collaboration with Macquarie University.
Engaging with the local Indigenous community on a RAP opens the door to better relationships and the potential for ongoing involvement; where the ‘us and them’ is reconciled into ‘you and me’.