Global multi-disciplinary architectural practice Fender Katsalidis affirms their commitment to reconciliation with the launch of their inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

Fender Katsalidis (FK) is one of the few architectural practices to have formally committed to reconciliation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through Reconciliation Australia’s RAP program. Reflect RAP is the first step in the company’s commitment to inform, promote and facilitate respect of First Nations peoples’ cultural practices and connection to Country.

“At FK, our heartfelt duty to constructively respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ culture can be uniquely enacted through our privileged practice of architecture as we help build a sustainable future enriched by the learnings of First Nations peoples,” says Fender Katsalidis founding partner Karl Fender OAM.

Fender Katsalidis’ formal commitment to reconciliation began in March 2021 with a RAP working group being established with members from all levels of the business including design, HR and operations. Led by principal Chris Johnson, the group also includes Justin Mohamed, a Gooreng Gooreng man from Bundaberg, with whom FK is working to develop their RAP initiatives as well as soundboard ideas for future events and partnership opportunities at the firm.

Johnson says it is important for a large architectural practice such as theirs – FK currently employs 160 architects, interior designers, and staff across studios in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane – to adopt a RAP in order to facilitate and encourage change in the industry.

“It’s significant for a company like FK to do this because our work has a direct influence on Country, and we have an opportunity to adapt our built environments to include culture and Country into our processes. This will crucially lead other firms to move with us,” he adds.


Image: Durunang, Chris Tobin, Jessica Tobin | 32 Smith Street, Parramatta | Photo: Fender Katsalidis

Fender Katsalidis’ first Reflect RAP focuses on four key areas: relationships, respect, opportunities and governance with key actions, deliverables and timelines. FK’s initiatives will work towards establishing mutually beneficial relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and organisations; increasing the understanding, value and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’ cultures, histories and rights; increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recruitment, retention and professional development; and developing a business case for using more Indigenous-owned businesses.

According to Johnson, they need to fill the gaps in Indigenous employment in all levels throughout the company.

“We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are underrepresented in our industry, and we want to work out how to break the cycle and encourage youth to investigate architecture and design as a viable lifelong journey,” he adds.

Since 2006, RAPs have provided a framework for organisations to leverage their structures and niches to support the national reconciliation movement. Nearly three million people are now working or studying in an organisation with a RAP.

The four RAP types – Reflect, Innovate, Stretch and Elevate – allow RAP partners to continuously develop reconciliation commitments in ways that align with their own business objectives for effective outcomes. These outcomes contribute towards the five dimensions of reconciliation: race relations; equality and equity; institutional integrity; unity and historical acceptance.

Reconciliation Australia chief executive officer Karen Mundine said that FK’s inaugural Reflect RAP would deepen their understanding of their sphere of influence and the unique contribution the company can make to lead progress across the five dimensions.

“Getting these first steps right will ensure the sustainability of future RAPs and reconciliation initiatives, and provide meaningful impact toward Australia’s reconciliation journey,” she added.

Image: Lorrkon Hollow Log 1992 by Jimmy Wood (Marraluka) | Garangula Gallery | Photo: John Gollings