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Intrepid employees given choice to work on public holiday, Natalie Kidd explains why

As many Australian’s took to the streets yesterday, in both protest and celebration, a few companies chose a different approach: business as usual.

One such company was Intrepid Travel, which gave its employees the option to work on Australia Day.

For the second year in a row, the tour operator joined the ranks of many Australian companies that are looking towards the future by offering employees an alternative day-in-lieu if they would prefer to work on the divisive national holiday.

According to a statement from Intrepid, the company went to great lengths to stress there was no judgement towards employees who chose to have the day off, though staff overwhelmingly responded in support for this policy, with most choosing an alternative date.

Natalie Kidd, Intrepid’s chief people and purpose officer, told Travel Weekly the option not to participate in Australia Day as a national holiday was part of the company’s commitment to acknowledge and respect the perspectives and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“By giving people a choice of whether they celebrate the day or not, we hope to prompt a discussion internally,” Kidd said.

“The choice can lead people to reflect on how many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people view January 26, a day that marked a loss of their sovereign rights to their land, loss of family, and loss of the right to practice their culture.”

Around 60 per cent of Australian’s agree with celebrating Australia Day on 26 January according to recent research from Deakin University, but the generational differences are stark.

More than half (53 per cent) of millennials think we shouldn’t celebrate Australia Day on 26 January, a date that represents a day of mourning for many Indigenous Australians.

Kidd said Intrepid encourages its fellow travel companies to implement a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) to provide a framework for their own contributions towards reconciliation by covering four focus areas: relationships, respect, opportunities and governance.

“This helps businesses create a holistic plan, which covers everything from cultural awareness to recruitment, procurement and more,” Kidd said.

“It isn’t about doing one thing, but rather committing to the ongoing journey and being accountable.”

Intrepid introduced its second RAP in 2020, outlining the steps Intrepid took toward reconciliation the year before – for example, showing respect for Uluru’s cultural and spiritual significance in 2019 by ceasing to provide alcohol on Uluru sunset tours.

“We’ve grown the number of First Nations tourism experiences on our trips in Australia by 300 per cent (from 12 to 48) since mid-2020,” Kidd said.

“Now, half our trips in Australia include at least one First Nations tourism experience.”

The tour operator also recognises the importance of building equitable partnerships with Indigenous people, organisations and businesses.

“We work with Reconciliation Australia, Indigenous X and Welcome to Country. We also have two First Nations consultants, Patricia Adjei and Bart Pigramon our RAP committee,” Kidd said.

“I truly believe that there’s no better way to get to know someone and learn their perspective than through a real experience, in their environment and that if Australia gets it right, sustainable travel, on Country, led by First Nations people and communities, will help to start truly move the needle for a stronger, more equal country.”


Featured image: iStock/tmprtmpr



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