b'COMMUNITY| LEGAL SECTOR| 2021SUSTAINABILITY INSIGHTRECONCILIATION IN AUSTRALIAAll reporting firms were involved in some type of reconciliation related programs, initiatives and events to raise awareness and provide recognition of reconciliation and the issues and barriers that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples face. On average firms undertook an average of six activities each in 2020-21 which has increased from five last year and three in 2019. An additional four firms took part in NAIDOC Week activities this year taking the participation up to seventy-six percent of firms. This was the most popular initiative followed by seventy-three percent of active firms that provided Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural awareness training. Participation in other initiatives also grew again this year including National Reconciliation Week activitiessixty-eight percent, scholarships and student mentoringforty-one percent, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and internship programsfifty-nine percent, affirmative procurement programsfifty-one percent, non-legal volunteering and secondmentsthirty-two percent and structured collaboration for reconciliationthirty-two percent.Challenges and Opportunities Clearly reconciliation hasnt been achieved in Australia yet. The legal sector needs to accept a responsibility to both participate and lead toward this goal. We need to keep doing what we are doing but we also need to find new ways to achieve even more. Having plans and policies is an important part of the challenge but strong leadership, commitment, and transparency are possibly the most important factor in changing established beliefs, behaviours and outcomes. In businesses this requires deeper engagement by leadership, employees, stakeholders and more meaningful connections with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. One-to-many types of engagement events are common in many law firms but can be superficial if they are not part of a deeper set of engagements.Participation in business and employment is a key element that drives sustainable self-sufficiency for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families and communities. Indigenous people, like many minority groups, are underrepresented in the legal profession and its supply chain. The National Profile of Solicitors 2021 Report conducted by the NSW Law Society found that the percentage of the profession nationally self-identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people has reduced from 1.2 percent to only 0.8 percent in compared with 3.4 percent in the general population. This may be a factor of fewer graduate lawyers, inequality in recruitment or perhaps because fewer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lawyers are choosing to self-identify. Law firms should consider increasing cultural learning, safety and awareness within organisations to increase First Nations employees to self-identify as well as encouraging First Nations peoples to want to choose law as a career.Law firms investments in nurturing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal talent can be improved to provide more attractive opportunities for First Australian Lawyers. Deeper, more immersive programs that include more continuous and progressive pathways including scholarships, vacation placements, internships, clerkships, graduate programs and lawyer development programs will lead to higher levels of engagement by participants. Firms can increase the opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to apply for and serve firm internships, by holding ongoing recruitment and staggering program times, rather than the narrow peak recruitment windows and set more flexible timeframes for deployments. Increasingly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses are providing supplier diversity through competitive goods and services that are used by law firms and other businesses. But for these businesses to grow and to increase their range of products and services further they need the increased demand and support from businesses like law firms. Supply Nation is the leading directory for Indigenous owned businesses and is endorsed by the Australian Government. Reconciliation Action Plans have a positive effect in workplaces and improve a firms chances of achieving the objectives of relationships, respect and opportunities and implementing and measuring practical actions. All organisations should plan and implement their reconciliation support in a strategic and clear way .This will allow them to identify the best opportunities to contribute to reconciliation that align with their skills and capacities with a focus on impact. Firms who are still starting out should revisit their commitments and research Reconciliation Action Plans further. Reconciliation Australia resources are a great place to start, including Why have a RAP and weekly webinars that provide an overview of Reconciliation Action and relevant networks. Partners with higher level Stretch and Elevate Reconciliation Action Plans also have unique experience and skills to play a leadership role in the broader legal reconciliation network. These firms can lead collaboration within the legal sector and beyond including participation in RAP training and capacity building. 62'