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Cultural Appreciation Day: Learning from First Nations voices

At Canva, we’ve been reflecting and learning together in the lead-up to January 26. This Cultural Appreciation Day, we’ll be learning directly from First Nations communities to help start informed conversations that build awareness and inclusivity.

At Canva, we’ve been reflecting and learning together in the lead-up to January 26, especially when it comes to the role individuals can play in driving change. We know that understanding the impact of this date comes from learning directly from our First Nations communities to then help build awareness and a more inclusive society for everyone.

The current date of January 26 marks the arrival of the first colony in Australia, and is a divisive day among Australians – particularly for our First Nations people, where it represents a day of mourning, with significant historical and cultural implications. At Canva, we’ll be observing January 26 as a Cultural Appreciation Day, and also offering the option for our team this year to switch the Public Holiday to January 27 instead.

Cultural Appreciation Day Canva

As we’ve shaped our Cultural Appreciation Day, we’ve spent time learning from First Nations members in Canva’s community about their preferred approach to the January 26 events. They shared with us that the most important thing we can do is the continuation of education – taking time to reflect, and understand what the impact of 'Australia Day' is through the importance of Australia's Black History. With that in mind, we set out to educate Canvanauts through resources and guides, along with cultural education experiences they can take part in throughout the week and year.

As part of our Meaning for Wellbeing Month – designed to inspire and educate Canvanauts to explore and discover what they consider important in their lives – Susan Moylan Coombs(opens in a new tab or window) of the Gaimaragal Group(opens in a new tab or window) presented the session Reframing Wellbeing: what we can learn from the world's oldest culture. Canvanauts could attend in person or virtually from around the world as an opportunity to reflect on the land in which they live and work, and look to the past to learn for the future.

This week we also offered First Nations walking tours of Sydney’s Redfern to Canvanauts with Local Indigenous Walking Tours with Aunty Donna Ingram(opens in a new tab or window). The tour, led by senior Aunty Donna Ingram, an Elder of the Redfern Aboriginal community, orients participants on Gadigal land, giving an insight into the history and present realities of Redfern – one of the most thriving, diverse and active urban Aboriginal communities in Australia (and the neighborhood Canva’s offices are located in).

Aunty Donna Ingram Indigenous Walking Tour Canva

Canvanauts on Aunty Donna Ingram's Indigenous walking tour this week.

To commemorate this Cultural Appreciation Day, we commissioned artist Maggie-Jean Douglas(opens in a new tab or window) to create a design for our new First Nations Acknowledgment of Country, Zoom backgrounds, emojis and stickers that anyone can use throughout the week and in the future. We’re lucky to have a wide range of elements in our ever-growing content library by many incredible First Nations artists across Australia, including Bobbi Lockyer(opens in a new tab or window), Marley Morgan(opens in a new tab or window), and Wayne Quilliam(opens in a new tab or window).

Maggie-Jean Douglas Indigenous art Canva

Canva's Acknowledgment of Country artwork by Maggie-Jean Douglas.

We’ve also launched a dedicated Cultural Learning hub, an evergreen resource that houses guides, recordings, content, and assets that our team can come back to at any time.

Worimi cultural educator and Canva partner Josh Brown(opens in a new tab or window) has shared his suggestions for how our team – or anyone else – could spend January 26:

  • Educate yourself on Australia's history and the treatment of First Nations peoples.
  • Start conversations about what you have learned while advocating for anything you see.
  • Show your support down at Yabun Festival(opens in a new tab or window) or any other events that bring education or learning about the treatment and support of our First Nations people.
  • Learn what Country you’re on – what is your Acknowledgment of Country?
  • Amplify Indigenous voices, businesses, organizations and individuals.

Having open conversations

With the impending Voice to Parliament Referendum(opens in a new tab or window) happening at the end of 2023, an approach of education and inclusion for January 26 is incredibly important as we look to empower our team to share learnings with their own communities and create meaningful change.

In some situations this can feel like a tricky or sensitive subject to bring up, however, it’s only through informed conversations that we’re able to reach more people and continue the important journey of cultural education – and not just on January 26.