The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has launched an information campaign to encourage a respectful and informed debate ahead of the referendum to establish a First Nations Voice to Parliament on 14 October 2023.
ARA CEO and long-time diversity advocate Paul Zahra reaffirmed the association’s commitment to promoting reconciliation within its sphere of influence, in line with the ARA’s Reconciliation Action Plan.
“The referendum is a unique opportunity to recognise Australia’s First Nations peoples in our country’s constitution and give them a say in matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” Mr Zahra said.
“Our education campaign aims to connect members and their teams with the information needed to engage in respectful and informed discussions in the workplace.”
With 30% of the population still unsure about which way they will vote, and 1.4 million Australians working in the retail sector, there are an estimated 420,000 retail workers who remain undecided about the referendum.
“Our campaign is not about telling people how to vote – that’s not our job and not our aim,” Mr Zahra said.
“However, if we can help the thousands of undecided voters working in our sector to make an informed decision, then I’ll be proud of the role we’ve played.”
While the ARA is focused on supporting its members and their teams, the referendum has also added a new dimension to customer aggression and anti-social behaviour in the retail environment, exacerbating concerns about the mental and emotional wellbeing of some front-line retail workers.
“We understand there are different views in the community about the Voice and the referendum,” Mr Zahra said.
“There are also different views across corporate Australia, with some of our largest members taking a leadership position in support of the yes campaign.
“Sadly, some consumers have taken retail workers to task about the position held by their employers, which is completely unacceptable,” he said.
“That’s another reason why we have developed this campaign – to give our members the tools they need to ensure safe and respectful conversations between people who hold different views.”
The ARA has developed an online resource at retail.org.au/reconciliation bringing together information from leaders and experts about the referendum.