Telstra acknowledges Land Rights across Australia

Telstra acknowledges Land Rights across Australia

Riki Salem's Reconciliation design for Telstra

Posted by Jeremy Eccles | 17.09.13

In recognition of its commitment to reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Telstra has rolled out a commissioned Indigenous artwork across its 365 national retail stores and 88 business centres.

The Telstra Reconciliation Action artwork by Indigenous artist, Riki Salam, is now a feature on the front door of all Telstra stores, accompanied by the statement which reads: "Telstra acknowledges the Traditional Owners of this land, their ancestors and elders - and is committed to reconciliation among all Australians".

The artwork connects the three pillars of Telstra's Reconciliation Action Plan -- Our Customers, Our Communities, Our People -- and calls for connection, celebration and action. Telstra's Indigenous Directorate General Manager, Lauren Ganley, said that: "Telstra has a long and proud commitment to supporting and recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Our Reconciliation Action Plan focuses on providing access to communications, employment opportunities, and support for education, arts and culture to help secure a brighter future for Indigenous Australians.

"The acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land where our stores are located is a small but genuine show of respect. It's reflective of our business values and is another way of connecting with our community. This is part of who we are. At Telstra, we believe that reconciliation is everybody's business and united we can achieve real change," Ms Ganley added.

Telstra also supports 'Recognise', the national campaign to update the constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culture for the benefit of all Australians. And it's initiated a partnership between the Telstra Foundation and the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence with a $5m, five-year injection to help create a new generation of digitally savvy Indigenous learners, leaders and entrepreneurs across Australia.

Mr Salam, creative director at indigenous agency Gilimbaa, believes the move involing his artwork is a milestone for Australian business: "Placing the piece in such a prominent location in all stores is a great example of corporate Australia embracing indigenous culture and promoting inclusion in a high profile, visible way".

"I'm proud that I was able to translate Telstra's vision into an artwork that calls for action and recognises the traditional owners."

Born and raised in Cairns, Riki's father is a Torres Strait man from Moa Island who was relocated to Mossman on the mainland at the beginning of World War II. His mother is a Ngai Tahu (Maori) woman from Kai Poi, near Christchurch.

After studying in Brisbane, Riki honed his craft at renowned Indigenous art studio Balarinji under the guidance of artists and owners John and Ros Moriarty. During his career, Riki has worked on many high-profile projects including the QANTAS painted 747, Yananyi Dreaming.

Each circle on the perimeter of his Telstra artwork represents a different Country, connected by the three pillars of Telstra's Reconciliation Action Plan. These pillars merge at the centre point of the artwork, the place of ceremony. Three coolamons lie side by side. These are wooden vessels carrying artefacts for the celebration: seeds and yams, ochre and paint, even a new born baby. These three pieces represent the core values of the Action Plan -- Opportunities, Relationships and Respect.

At the centre of the piece, a man whirls a bull roarer, the traditional device used to hail people far and wide to come to the ceremony. Telstra's Reconciliation Action Plan is like that bull roarer; it calls for connection, it calls for celebration, and it calls for action.

A very conceptual piece of design.

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Artists: Riki Salam

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