Member Stories

NAIDOC Week: Celebrating First Nations communities


Each July, customer-owned banks join in on NAIDOC celebrations to recognise the history, culture and accomplishments of First Nations people. As we join the festivities, the Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA) has profiled a couple of member banks that are working consistently to build closer bonds with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. 

NAIDOC Week celebrates the culture, traditions and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – something many of our customer-owned bank members proudly get behind each July and, increasingly, also throughout the year. 

As community-focused organisations, customer-owned banks have made progress in forming deeper relationships with their First Nations members and their local communities, and gaining a better understanding of their needs.  

Of course, as many COBA members recognise in their Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs), there’s still much progress to be made, which involves listening, reflecting and taking action to forge a different path for the future. This year’s NAIDOC theme, ‘Keep the Fire Burning: Blak, Loud and Proud’, encourages people to listen and learn through meaningful dialogue. 

In recognition of NAIDOC Week and the ongoing efforts of some of our members, we’ve profiled two customer-owned banks that are working extensively with First Nations communities to build stronger and more connected relationships.

Australian Unity Bank has put words into action when it comes to reconciliation and recognising the essential contribution of First Nations people to the workforce, communities and culture. 

Australian Unity is one of the largest employers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW, with nearly 300 First Nations people working for the customer-owned bank in a variety of roles. However, Australian Unity has stressed it’s important to keep adding to those roles and opportunities. 

The customer-owned bank also provides culturally safe home-care services to help people live independently, while recognising the importance of connection to community. The home-care services include social group activities, such as Yarn Ups. 

In 2022, Australian Unity launched its stretch RAP, which extends its commitments to communities, employees and businesses. 

Australian Unity has been a strong supporter of NAIDOC Week and Indigenous organisations, such as the First Nations Foundation. It has previously sponsored the NAIDOC Awards. 

Australian Mutual Bank is another strong supporter of NAIDOC and reconciliation with First Nations people. 

Last year, the customer-owned bank launched its first RAP, choosing Respect as its key commitment. One area it has focused on involves developing a better understanding of the region’s Traditional Owners and surrounding lands and waters. 

“We firmly believe that by acknowledging the past, listening to the present, and working together towards a shared future, we can create a more inclusive and equitable society for all,” the bank said when it launched its RAP. 

Australian Mutual Bank staff marked last year’s NAIDOC Week by volunteering at the Barnardos Early Learning Centre. 

While we’ve profiled two customer-owned banks here, it’s important to point out the sector as a whole, and many of our individual members, are taking daily steps to listen and build closer bonds with First Nations communities. We look forward to listening, learning and celebrating NAIDOC Week together.

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