Woolworths Group announces First Nations Advisory Board

[supplied by Woolworths]

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L-R Kristal Kinsela, Courtney Palmer, Lauren Smith, Adam Goodes, Alex Holt, Sean Golding. Image: supplied

Woolworths Group has announced the establishment of its First Nations Advisory Board to guide Australia’s largest retailer as it seeks to improve engagement with Indigenous communities and continue to make a meaningful contribution towards Closing the Gap and Reconciliation within Australia.


The eight-member Advisory Board has 75 per cent Aboriginal representation, comprising a cross section of Woolworths Group team members and Indigenous business leaders.


It was formed in August last year with the mandate to provide frank and fearless advice to the wider business on matters related to Indigenous Affairs, reporting directly to Woolworths Group’s Board and engaging with the Woolworths Group Executive Committee and Sustainability Committee.


The Advisory Board will give counsel on matters including internal policies, advocacy positions, informing commercial and partnering decisions and Indigenous community engagement and empowerment.


Woolworths Group has publicly acknowledged its recent failings in Indigenous engagement following the proposed development of a liquor store in Darwin, which didn't adequately consider the views of the local community. The Advisory Board responds to the structural decision making issues identified by the Independent Panel Review commissioned into the Darwin development last year, prior to the demerger of Woolworths Group's liquor business under Endeavour Drinks late in 2021. The Darwin development did not proceed.


First Nations Advisory Board members:

  • Adam Bray - a proud Iman man and Woolworths Group’s General Manager of Indigenous Strategy and Affairs following his appointment in November 2021. Adam has significant experience in Indigenous Affairs roles spanning Shell, Telstra, Australian Human Rights Commission and Royal Australian Navy.

  • Adam Goodes - a proud Adnyamathanha and Narungga man and Cofounder of Indigenous scholarship program GO Foundation. Adam is CEO of The Indigenous Defence and Infrastructure Consortium and Director of Australian Literacy and Numeracy Fund.

  • Alex Holt - Woolworths Group’s inaugural Chief Sustainability Officer since 2020. Alex leads teams dedicated to improving social and environmental sustainability across the pillars of People, Product and Planet.

  • Claire Peters - Woolworths Group First Nations Advisory Board Chair and Managing Director B2B and Everyday Needs. Claire was previously the Managing Director of Woolworths Supermarkets.

  • Kristal Kinsela - a proud Jawoyn and Wiradjuri woman and supplier diversity expert who works closely with corporate and government leaders to influence procurement, organisational culture, and engagement with Indigenous businesses. Kristal is a Director of Many Rivers and Uniting.

  • Lauren Smith - a proud Kamilaroi woman and store manager of BIG W in Newcastle West, NSW. Lauren has been part of the Woolworths Group for 15 years and is a leader in Indigenous cultural awareness activities in Big W.

  • Sean Gordon - a proud Wangkumarra/Barkindji man and Managing Director of Indigenous business consultancy Gidgee Group. Sean has been advising the corporate sector for more than 10 years on Indigenous affairs and is the Independent Chair of the Barkly Regional Deal in Central Northern Territory, and a Council Member of the University of Newcastle.

  • Courtney Palmer - a proud Worimi woman and BIG W State Manager for QLD and NT, leading a team of more than 4,000 people across 48 stores. Courtney is a passionate advocate for First Nations team members and the role of broader society in closing the gap.


Woolworths Group is one of the largest employers of Indigenous Australians with more than 5,000 First Nations team members working across the group.


Advisory Board member and BIG W store manager Lauren Smith, said: “The creation of the Advisory Board and its dense representation of diverse First Nations voices shows the real authenticity the business wants to achieve in supporting and advocating for First Nations peoples - in Woolworths Group and in the community.


“We’re on the journey towards Reconciliation and we all have a part to play.”


Woolworths Group Managing Director of B2B and Everyday Needs and Advisory Board Chair, Claire Peters, said: “The First Nations Advisory Board provides us with the capability to make a meaningful contribution to Closing the Gap, drawing on collective expertise and informed insights to make meaningful change.


“Since we launched our first Reconciliation Action Plan in 2011, we have done a lot of good work but we do not shy away from the fact that we did get some things wrong. We’re listening, and we’re learning from those mistakes.


“As supporters of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, we believe that Indigenous people should have a voice in decisions that affect them. Decisions we make should be made with - and not for - Indigenous peoples.


“This Advisory Board plays a critical role providing counsel and guidance on key issues and challenges of importance to Indigenous team members, customers and communities across Australia.


“NAIDOC Week is a reminder of the proud histories of First Nations peoples and a time to think about how together we can deliver a better tomorrow by elevating Indigenous voices - and making sure they’re heard.”


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