The Importance of Cultural Identity

28 October 2015 By Paul Murray, FCLP 2015

Today was the penultimate program of our Folio Community Leadership Program journey for 2015, on the topic of Cultural Identity and perhaps more than other programs, all of which have stretched and provoked me, I found today’s presentation on Restoring Cultural Safety in Aboriginal Victoria confronting, challenging and also inspiring and motivating. 

The concept of heavy ‘cultural load’ in aboriginal communities was well illustrated and it was arresting to me how greatly attendance at funerals, on average 15 times a year, every year from teenage years has ripple effects that amplify the discrimination faced in very aspect of life for aboriginals, especially compared to the relatively light cultural load of a typical non-aboriginal teenager.

The response of the group to these concepts was visceral and provoked interesting questions of the speaker that served to deepen understanding of the issue.  Yet there was a sense of hope that cultural safety could be reclaimed and that each of us in the room could choose to be a party to change by individually challenging cultural load, tackling our own inner racist, confronting and challenging racism in our families and community, that is to support the quest for cultural identity.  For me this amounts to doing the right thing, and in being aware of the depth and significance of the cultural theft / depletion of aboriginal culture, I can’t undo this knowledge, nor ignore it as before.  

Leadership starts with us as individuals and ripples through families, friends, colleagues, teams, organisations, communities and nations, building connection and trust and creating change. Change starts with us.

Further insight to Cultural Identity was fascinatingly provided later in the day on the topic of Creating Inclusive Organisation Cultures, where we identified our own unconscious biases relating to gender and race.  A significant outcome of the talk was that a diversity dividend is achieved in organisations through operating with inclusive cultural practices, managing diversity and promotion of ongoing learning.  To me it is a quite intuitive conclusion, however I can’t help but be concerned at how far the typical organisation is advanced in reaching even close to the notion of an optimal performance zone for diversity.  This means the typical business is losing 40% of additional performance by not practicing social sensitivity, by not having all voices contribute and by mismanaging the proportion of female workplace participation.  To me it is clear that diversity in all its forms is a community win/win, and there is a role for each of us to play as leaders in our day to day work and community lives.

By Paul Murray
Head of Asset Class
Victorian Funds Management Corporation

Paul leads the investment management of VFMC's debt and absolute return asset classes including portfolio construction and strategy responsibility for internal fixed income and external manager portfolios.