Community consultation was at the heart of the new uniform options for Bankwest staff recently launched during NAIDOC Week.
Artwork by Perth-based Yawuru designer Justine Kinney adorn a collection of scarves, ties, and socks that are now a permanent part of the bank’s uniform.
Kinney said it’s an honour to see her work worn by so many people around the country.
“I am super proud of it … I am impressed by the fact that they’re putting it in a work catalogue, I know that’s a big deal for most companies,” she said.
“All of this stuff is long time coming ultimately, but I think we are seeing the needle being moved in this direction … people want accessible cultural design.”
“[Bankwest] worked for three to four years to see this coming to life. I’m very proud of the whole team.”
The new uniform options have been gifted to each of Bankwest’s 3,000 staff.
Kinney’s design reflects the Reconciliation journey of all Australians, with 12 arches surrounding and creating a meeting place for the 11 Aboriginal nations in which Bankwest has a presence, and an arch for non-Indigenous Australians.
At the centre of the artwork is a wattle flower, often used as a symbol of resilience, unity, remembrance, and reflection.
Kinney said the wattle’s status as the national flower allowed the design to be representative of all Bankwest staff across the country.
“As we explored something that would be representative across Australia, because these guys weren’t just working in WA, we looked at harmony with botanicals as a natural way to tell the story as well … the wattle has kind of interesting representations that also works.”
Kinney said she wanted to represent not just her own mob, but Aboriginal people and wider society as well.
“I definitely tried to look at all aspects, from Noongar culture and across Australia,” she said.
Bankwest worked with Reconciliation WA to select an artist for the project; Bankwest Chief Customer Officer Paul Vivian said Kinney was the obvious choice for them.
“Justine’s cultural connection to regional WA really resonated with us due to Bankwest’s origins as the Agricultural Bank of WA, founded in 1895,” he said.
Vivian said it was important that the project was culturally appropriate for everyone across Australia.
“We engaged Aboriginal Elders and respected community members from regions in which Bankwest operates, including the Perth, South West, Goldfields/Esperance, Pilbara, and Kimberley areas, as well as Victoria and New South Wales,” he said.
“We worked with the Indigenous Consulting Group to identify the appropriate Aboriginal Elders, who provided the project with valuable feedback and overwhelmingly offered their support to the initiative and the direction the design was taking.”
Vivian said feedback from Aboriginal Elders was positive.
“Our brief to Ms Kinney was for a design that reflected a coming together, of sharing and learning in Reconciliation at a national level, and the broad support of the consultation group was a testament to the thoughtfulness of her design,” he said.
The uniform items were designed to appeal to a broad range of stakeholders and Vivian expects the uniform options will be popular with staff.
The uniform initiative is part of Bankwest’s Reconciliation Action Plan, which is mediated through their parent company, the Commonwealth Bank.
Bankwest also operates an Indigenous Customer Assistance Line (ICAL) which aims to plug the gaps in access to banking services for First Nations people, particularly those living in remote areas.
“There are times when it simply isn’t appropriate to provide the same service to everyone, and requiring a customer [to] visit a branch due to a failed ID check, when they live hours away with no car, is not fair or practical,” Bankwest General Manager for Personal and Third-Party Banking Donna Dalby said.
“We know there are gaping holes in systems across society that allow some of our most vulnerable members of the community to slip through, and it’s important we do what we can to ensure no Australian is left behind.”
By Sarah Smit