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Ngarga Wangaddja – Lighting the wiinj (fire) of ANZ’s Reconciliation Journey


“To commit to Reconciliation is an eternal promise to engage, listen to and learn from the First Nations people of the over 250 nations that make up what is known as Australia. It is an ever-evolving commitment to do what is right and just.”



Learning from and listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees is a large and all too familiar gap in many organisations. While the good intent and enthusiasm of non-indigenous Australians often leads organisations on their respective reconciliation journeys, the importance of listening to and being guided by their First Nations employees is often a glaring blind spot.


By understanding this important aspect, ANZ has crafted its own unique approach to Reconciliation. Inspired by ANZ’s support for the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ and driven by the unwavering commitment to walk side by side with ANZ’s First Nations people, the concept of the Ngarga Wangaddja workshop was born.


The workshop allowed ANZ’s senior leaders to listen, consult and provide a platform for the First Nations employee’s voice to ensure it is not only heard but actively guides ANZ’s Reconciliation journey. The workshop brought together 16 First Nations employees from different nations across the country and various areas of the business. We spent four days at ANZ’s head office in Naarm (Melbourne).  




‘What is Ngarga Wangaddja’?


Ngarga Wangaddja means ‘mob talking’ in the language of the Nurungga people. It was the name chosen for the employee reference group formed by First Nations employees to represent the voices of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander staff at ANZ. The group advises ANZ’s Reconciliation Action Plan governance committees and consults on any matters pertaining to the First Nations employee experience. Please refer to www.anz.com/reconcilitation for further information on ANZ’s Reconciliation Action Plan, including our 2022 Reconciliation Action Plan Progress Report.



After weeks of dayalk [rain], dumbok [clouds] and monmut gurriin [inclement weather] here in Naarm [Melbourne]), Bundjil cleared the woora woora [skies] and brought forth ngawiin [sunshine] to welcome mob from nations across the biik [country].  


What followed was a truly unique and inspiring few days.


We engaged in round table discussions and sharing, reflected on past experiences, planned for the future and held yarning circles with senior ANZ leaders in a culturally safe space created by those present.


“This opportunity was absolutely inspiring, breath taking and healing. I will forever be grateful to be able to be in a room with the most incredible people. To share my story and to hear each and everyone else’s stories touched my heart in a way that I will always hold onto and cherish. I am grateful to ANZ to not only give us this opportunity but to show genuine intent and care for the First Nations people of ANZ.” - Ngarga Wangaddja member


A common dreamtime story that connects nations right across the country is that of wiinj [fire]. My people, the Taungurung People of the Kulin Nation, tell the story of Waang the Crow, an ancestral being and cultural hero who brought wiinj to our people. 


What was clear from our time together was each member of Ngarga Wangaddja brought with them a flame and used it to light the wiinj to carry ANZ forward on our collective journey of Reconciliation. 


Each member of Ngarga Wangaddja had the opportunity to spend time in their business area of choice at ANZ’s headquarters at Docklands. This was an opportunity valued and cherished by the Ngarga Wangaddja members and the ANZ employees who showcased their respective areas.


This opportunity inspired many members and opened their eyes to future opportunities they had not previously conceived. It also encouraged other areas of the business to showcase their divisions and network with ANZ’s broader First People’s cohort. 


“To come together with a purpose and be listened too gave me a real sense of belonging. Our motivation, enthusiasm, and willingness to participate will help grow our current Indigenous employees and lead to future career pathways. This excites me as when I first started at ANZ this was something I could only dream of.” - Ngarga Wangaddja member


“The workshop was a really great opportunity to put the name Ngarga Wangaddja into practise. I felt so privileged to hear the stories of everyone in that room and connected to the ANZ workplace in a way I’ve never experienced before. It helped me to believe in the power of our collective voices and in the bona fide commitment by the organisation to get this right.” - Ngarga Wangaddja member


ANZ’s purpose is to “shape a world where people and communities thrive”. A purpose that inherently lives inside each and every First Nations person, driven by the cultural lores of the oldest living cultures in the world. 


This shared purpose was brought to life throughout the discussions. A myriad of community-centric ideas and strategies were tabled. Many of these could be adapted and scaled to service communities across ANZ’s internal and external networks.


Without First Nations’ communities thriving, ANZ’s purpose cannot be realised. This reality is not lost on the team driving ANZ’s Reconciliation journey. This is best demonstrated by the shared ethos of walking side by side. 


Being a First Nations person is living and walking in two worlds every day. Within both we seek success, prosperity and acceptance. One world is led by our identity, cultural customs, obligations and lore. The other is this new world of modern Australia thrust upon our people by the colonisers. The ability to walk in these two worlds with authenticity and confidence is an ambition all organisations should have for their First Nations employees and it is the driving force behind ANZ’s journey.


To commit to Reconciliation is an eternal promise to engage, listen to and learn from the First Nations people of the over 250 nations that make up what is known as Australia. It is an ever-evolving commitment to do what is right and just.


The opportunity to seek Reconciliation is a testament to the generosity and unrivalled strength of First Nations people to offer an invitation to come together. This invitation should not be taken for granted, nor should it be taken lightly.


If Australia as a nation is to learn from its history, it must not make the same mistakes of assuming it knows what First Nations people want or need. True Reconciliation can only be achieved by listening to and being guided by the very people it is designed to empower. Nothing about us, without us. 


*Traditional Language used throughout is that of the Taungurung People.


Alex Burns proud Nira-Balluk Man from the Taungurung Nation and Chair of Ngarga Wangaddja


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