Media & marketing employers explain how they approach 26 January

Mumbrella's Anna Macdonald asked several media and marketing businesses how they were approaching the day, including what they were calling it and whether employees are expected to work that day or not.

26 January is a divisive day in Australia. For some, it is a celebration of national pride. For others, it marks the beginning of colonisation and genocide towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Organisations have begun to give their employees the option to ignore the public holiday. Here, Mumbrella asked several media and marketing organisations how they were broaching the topic.

Annalise Brown, chief marketing officer at Dentsu ANZ (Dentsu):

What name does Dentsu call 26 January?

The 26th of January. We’re just calling it the 26th of January.

Our CEO [Angela Tangas] sent out an email yesterday stating her position and the position of the Dentsu corporation here in Australia, which is that, we acknowledged that this is a day which evokes quite a lot of emotion from our community and particularly obviously for our First Nations people. We recognize that this is a day of mourning and survival for them. We recognise that there’s been a turbulent history, particularly around that date and the recognition of that date being Australia Day.

Having said that, we also recognize that we’ve got a hundred plus different multicultural backgrounds within our business. We’ve got upwards of 1400 people within the business. Everyone has different reflections about what it is to be Australian. We recognise that it is evoking different emotions for different people within the broad spectrum of our business.

Are Dentsu employees expected to work on 26 January?

That’s an individual conversation with each [employee] and their immediate managers. We’re very open and receptive to people not feeling comfortable taking that as a national holiday, but it’s not a policy. Each individual can have a conversation with their manager in terms of how they wish to represent the 26th of January.

Does Dentsu have any policies in place for employees who do not wish to recognise 26 January?

[Dentsu has a Reconciliation Action Plan] that’s a much broader policy. That took over 12 months to get ratified. That’s a much broader action plan which has different layers to it which go towards acknowledgment, education, and celebration of our First Nations people.

Further comments:

I think the key thing is for us to recognise what it does mean for our First Nations people and quite significantly what that particular date means. One of our agencies is actually a First Nations people agency. Having conversations with each of the people within that organisation, it’s not about not celebrating being an Australian, it’s about the day on which we do that. Also, for us to recognise the significance of what that date actually does mean to them and their history.

Andrea Kerekes, CEO at Access PR, says:

What name does Access PR call 26 January?

We still refer to it as Australia Day but are very conscious of the pain that name has for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We have started our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and discussing what the day means from a First Nations perspective, along with sharing information, is part of that.

Are Access PR employees expected to work on 26 January?

No, the team is given a choice. If they work, they can choose another day to take off.

Does Access PR have any policies in place for employees who do not wish to recognise 26 January?

They can choose an alternative day off.

Further comments:

Personally, I believe there needs to be another way to celebrate being Australian that doesn’t hinge its date on the colonial invasion of this land. As a company, we work with a number of clients with a strong Indigenous connection, and this is also the company’s way of respecting them and their communities.

Sally Harley, founder and director at Little Big, says:

What name does Little Big call 26 January?

26 January

Are Little Big employees expected to work on 26 January?

No, there’s no expectation. We have given all our employees the choice to work on Wednesday and take another leave day in lieu, or they can have the public holiday.

Does Little Big have any policies in place for employees who do not wish to recognise 26 January?

Our offer to take another day off instead of 26 January constitutes this. I’m very open to discussing further how individual employees wish to regard the day, or see it regarded (or not) collectively.

Further comments:

Most First Nations Australians consider 26th of January Invasion Day. So do the leaders in our business. It isn’t a day for celebration. Reflection and reconciliation – yes. To this end, 26 January is a great chance to discuss the nature of Australian colonialisation and its continuing detrimental effects on First Nations people. And to not just talk but act, which is why the business has Paid Rent via Pay The Rent.

Offering our team the chance to celebrate what is undeniably great about Australia (democracy; snags on barbies; incredible, expansive natural spaces; a rich cultural history; arts, sport and food scenes like nowhere else on Earth…) on a day other than the 26th of January is a way that we can set our own standards as a business, in lieu of the Government changing the date.

We would like to see the date finally changed! Businesses and organisations have a big role to play in building the momentum to force that change.

Margie Reid, CEO at Thinkerbell, says: 

What name does Thinkerbell call 26 January?

We call it a public holiday but don’t think it’s the right day to celebrate Australia Day.

Are Thinkerbell employees expected to work on 26 January?

If anyone wants to work on Jan 26th, and not take it as a holiday they can. However, we are not mandating it or making a decision across the agency. We do, however, think it’s a really odd day to choose to celebrate Australia Day. To that end, we have organised two opportunities for cultural learning and empathy development. one on the 25th and one on the 26th.

Does Thinkerbell have any policies in place for employees who do not wish to recognise 26 January?

We are inviting all our staff to two learning and reflecting opportunities.

Matt Robinson, partner and managing director at AnalogFolk, says:

What name does AnalogFolk call 26 January?

I don’t think it’s for us as a business to change the name of the day, however, it is really important to us to acknowledge and reflect on the fact that 26 January carries a huge amount of pain for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples. Last year, we created our first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and whilst we’re at the beginning of that journey, we have spent the last year implementing new procedures and policies into our business that help us all gain a better understanding of what it will take to reconcile.

Importantly though, we also recognise that it is a personal choice. Some of our team may choose to celebrate Australia Day, others may choose to protest Invasion or Survival Day. We don’t think it’s for us to judge, however we have shared reading and other materials. Whatever our team chooses, we ask that they reflect on the different perspectives and points of view of all Australians.

Personally, I don’t feel comfortable celebrating the day, but will be taking the day off to spend with my kids in the last week of school holidays, and will be helping them understand and reflect on Australia Day from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective. I’m pleased to say that they already have a level of awareness through school, that I didn’t have at their age.

Are AnalogFolk employees expected to work on 26 January?

No, they’re not, but this year we’ve decided to give our team the choice to work on the public holiday, and instead choose another day to take a day of leave.

Does AnalogFolk have any policies in place for employees who do not wish to recognise 26 January?

Yes, as above. So far, we’ve had 25% of our team decide to work on the date, and take a day off at some stage later in the year. In addition, we plan to put down the tools as an agency through part of NAIDOC week, and attend special events as a team to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Further comments:

We see our role as part of our RAP journey which includes helping our team, partners, and suppliers to reflect and learn. We certainly won’t be celebrating the day as a company, and we made this decision as a leadership team to allow our team to work if they choose. As an inclusive employer, we would also consider a similar policy for other cultural holidays in Australia. Personally, I support changing the date and would love to have a date that everyone in our country could celebrate without pain.


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