#BeyondCOVID is the new mindset we have all had to adopt… how do we operate in this new changed state? I've gathered together some amazing Design Executives to share what they are doing now and in the coming months to survive and thrive in these difficult times.
Hassan el Rayes State Sales Manager at Schiavello Systems
Richard Henderson Founder & CEO at R-Co Brand
Theodore Kerlidis Director of K20 Architecture
Julie Ockerby CEO, Creative Director and Principal at Meli Studio Australia
Betsy Sweat Head of Asia Pacific at Restoration Hardware
Mark Bergin 00:00
Hi and welcome, I'm Mark Bergin, the founder of DRIVENxDESIGN and you're listening to a Design Exec Club Town Hall. This is the fifth round of town halls in Australia. It's actually a 17th Town Hall and by the time we've done Asia, Europe and the USA we will have done 20 of these so it's quite astounding. I'm always humbled by the people who come and join me for these town halls. What's interesting is when we share knowledge and we're prepared to say that we don't necessarily know or we don't understand. We can learn from each other and that's what I hope that we can get through today. Joining me here is my awesome panel. Howdy panel. Isn't it great, it's like the Brady Bunch here, that's the that's the zoom scenario that we've got here. I must apologize one for my for my look, you know my hair, I haven't had a haircut for six months. And part of the reason for that is that my hairdresser is in Melbourne and I'm about 100 kilometers away and I just haven't been able to get there, so this is what you get here. But that's actually one of the small impacts that's come from what's been a huge disruption for a lot of people. I don't know anybody where I am in, the state of Victoria where we are all in Stage Four lockdown who's living their normal life. I think Theo, you're actually in your office because you're involved with the construction industry and architecture so you're allowed to be in your office. I'm not allowed to be in my office. Hass you're in Sydney in your office. Julie you're the same, you're in Sydney and in your office there which is great. But Betsy you're joining us from Hong Kong.
Betsy Sweat 01:38
I am, I'm still waiting for Scott to open the borders so I can get to Sydney.
Mark Bergin 01:42
Exactly. And that's really interesting. There is this lock for people getting in and out of the country. So we'll welcome you back to the country very soon. And Richard, you're in Melbourne also in Stage Four. Isn't it interesting how quickly we went from 'this is a bit of an interuption' into a dramatic interruption?
Richard Henderson 02:02
Yes Mark it is. Certainly you can work you can work remotely, but it'svery difficult to be able to have a collaborative process and creativity when they sitting around the table together with each other is so important to the to the process. So we're all adjusting, more a mental thing than anything else and coping with it. I've actually started to be the sole operator and come to my office in the city on my own. And so I think I've escaped the restrictions in terms of that.
Mark Bergin 02:32
Well, when I started these town halls are what I wanted to do is actually talk about how do we get beyond COVID. And so that's going to be how do we react? How do we rebound? And then also, how do we reimagine? We're going to dig in today a bit about how do we reimagine the social inclusion, particularly for Indigenous Australians in there, but what I want to do is actually talk about the reaction side. Theo you've been pushed from a rebound stage as Richard and I have, into a reaction phase? Had everything that had been planned all fallen by the wayside and you've had to start again?
Theodore Kerlidis 03:10
It's been really interesting Mark. It's with the role as an architect transitioning into developer and I guess Maker of the ideas. dealing in COVID has been just an amazing challenge, almost insurmountable challenge, and requires a lot of vision to follow through and one of the easy thing with like, it's actually it's actually easy what we do, because you can actually see what the finished product looks like. So you can actually see what the architecture looks like, you know, there's models as images. There's hope that comes with that. Because it's because the image is saying it's visible. It's tangible. And that there is actually an end in sight. There is a completion with it as well. So, you know, they're just challenges and things that we've got to navigate. And every day is new every day is different. You know, there's there's, there's almost it's it's the rhythm of change is what we're dealing with on a day to day by day by day basis. But I won't say it's easy, I won't say it's hard. It's just the way it is. Yeah. You know, and you just got to do it, but it but it does, but it does make it easy. Having, you know, as an architect delivering these projects, it does make it easy, because it's visual, you can see it and, and it's, and it's just exciting, you know, because you can touch it, you can walk through it. So you know, where there's ordinarily where there should be despair. There isn't in everyone who's working on building site, you know, we've got over, you know, get nudging 200 at the peak. It takes a lot of good people on board and when you're delivering something that's, you know, that where there's some design thinking behind and design intent, you know, with, certainly with the project being a, you know, solid mass construction, timber, which is probably the biggest building, I'm not too sure exactly how big it is. compatibly but it's a big building that's made out of solid timber. You know, people know that they actually have something unique. And then it gives them you know, interesting when you sort of walk the site and get to know all the people that are building, building my building. You know, they actually know that they're actually part of something. That's, that's important. So, that's good, you know,
Mark Bergin 05:55
The challenges that are now coming up with that that are quite interesting because If I go to the simplest failure that's going to happen on the site, there is the fasteners that you're using the company who's distributing those may have decided to shut its doors, and then you've got to work at an all time source. So there's a delay, you know, this just levels of complication, as you know, 200 staff 200 people on the side, are going to consume a lot of materials throughout the day. And that means that the supply chains have to work and we know they're being interrupted. So so that's going to be very interesting to see how the cadence of the project changes. We know it's not going to be the same and I don't think any of us could predict what's going to be Hess on the last few for the chanela team and, and the work that you're doing with offices. They will have been a lot of reaction and also a lot of rebound work out there. People saying we want it slightly different in its configuration, obviously in Victoria, that will have changed dramatically, hasn't gone in the rest of the country for you.
Hassan el Rayes 07:00
It's an interesting scenario because what we found is people are coming back and asking us how to redesign their current office spaces to allow for social distancing. And it's actually a minor tweak. It's not that sophisticated because luckily in Australia, our typical floor space for per working person is approximately four square meters per person. Social distancing between you and your colleague about 1.5 meters. Now, I know Betty's in Hong Kong, I know their space is a lot less at their typical work desk is about 1200 millimeters long. So they would have a problem in having have to have an empty desk every other this. So we're pretty much already there. Just a few minor tweaks. And it's more to do with the utilities in the building space with the workspace. Like walk in bathrooms without doors. Maybe touched with some elevators and and doorways for main entrances. And it's more not so much a physical changing of the furniture but a mental state of mind change of how you operate. Obviously, you know, the whole idea of gathering together in a collective for a creative space becomes difficult. But but but manageable nevertheless. Because what we're finding that's the, the ingredients missing, the most people are missing, talking to other people engaging with other people. It leads to a lot of focus, detailed work, it takes away a lot of the creative human element. And that's part of it, too. Yeah.
Mark Bergin 08:45
It was interesting. I was having a conversation with the CEO of a construction development company and he was talking about how they've taken all the doors off bathrooms and kitchens and everywhere to stop the touch points. They've turned around and work out the social distance. On the tables, and that they then had, that they there wasn't meant to be no circulation between the different departments. And they had 50% of their staff and the Office of 50% not so like everything's been done properly. And then one of the senior managers wanted to go on actually give a bit of a, I want to support the troops, I want to actually show my support. And he began to into the other spaces, and all of a sudden he'd broken those protocols that and that, and the leader of that space have to say, Get out of here, because you're now actually, your leadership is showing that they're not that you're not doing the right thing. And that's what's interesting that these things are very insidious and very hard to understand. Betting on it. I want to throw across to you because in a previous call that you and I had had, you'd been talking about that resorts and islands in Australia, we're beginning to get on the phone to talk to Restoration Hardware because they were looking at saying, Well, people aren't flying out of the country, but they will want to go to holidays inside the tent. Contrary is that trend is still there where people are working out how to get an uplift on some river on a hotel that's in southern Australia that may not have been sheduled to be given an uplift?
Betsy Sweat 10:13
In fact, it is. What's gone even further Mark is that distressed assets are becoming available. So people who previously had held funds aside, have now purchased entire islands, or resorts that could be upgraded to more luxurious properties. And in exactly what you're seeing is this bubble that was going to exist between Australia, New Zealand, which was going to drive revenue to New Zealand and give an outlet for Australians to actually do things beyond their own borders. Now we understand that that that can be shut down in a minute. And so developers are looking at remote areas, they're looking at places where people can feel transformed. MD has had talked a little bit about how the energy is really necessary when you're around other people. In you're taken to a different look, you're taken to a different space. So we've had a lot of increase recently, not only for just Australia, but in the outlying islands, but also all all over the globe. The Maldives right now is booming. And it was always a high growth area. And obviously making a new atoll is not an easy thing. But I think what Australia has learned from the success of what has happened in the Maldives is you can have several price points. You can welcome locals to to places where they can really feel they can latch on their hair, still be vigilant in terms of their own bodies and understanding how that affects the community around it. But still have a place where families can get together and say, I feel safe.
Mark Bergin 11:59
That's good. And then Richard, I know, about a month ago, you had an initiative that you were doing to help the restaurants in Melbourne to welcome customers in, and to try to get people you know, share some pictures and talk about, you know, what they enjoyed. Now we're in lockdown that that that initiatives gone. That's a that's been put on hold for a period of time.
Richard Henderson 12:21
Yes Mark, I did initiate that and one of the observations I've made at the moment is that there seems to be a critical amount of inertia in terms of moving forward with anything from where I were from what I said, you know, I'm pleased to hear about it. He told me about people buying arms and thinking purchase, destination travel, etc. I think which is great module great. But I think that from the point of view of my observations, no one seems to be trying to make to be an issue issues on anything. And we live in this. quagmire of uncertainty is people gear change. guy I'm a I'm a gamma great optimist, you have to be we're in small business on your own. But I find, trying to raise the bar of what's possible in this country anyway, is incredibly difficult. We just seem to have forgotten what it's like to excel. And, you know, to try and put an offer out, which was really to encourage a community of thinking about bringing some simple flowers into the, into the environment, and then perhaps win something and participate in that. Just it could be it could have been the communication, but I think about feeling out in the street. Is this just a feeling of really well, what do we do? And people are sort of wondering why a lot is finished, as we know it, how are we going to reinvent, but unless you have a reinvention, sort of mindset and work. That's where design is so important, because design is a process of having a problem and working your way out of it. If you don't have that sort of mindset of moving forward, you just walk around in your own little zone and particularly if you're isolated stubbles a problem.
Mark Bergin 14:00
Viewers, I'll put a link into the Asia Town Hall, the last time we did and Richard and I and several architects, we had this conversation about being the first kid on the bustle of the last get on the bus. And so often design and particularly the visual communication projects is done as the last kid on the bus. And sometimes it's not a bit to like, in the case of the architects, it was actually maybe they hadn't thought about the interior fit outs when they were going actually doing the major scheme. And that then when it came interior saw that there were issues there. So it's really important to have that dialogue early for people not just to work out how to do just in time, and yes, you can go put lipstick on a pig, but it's much better if you actually get much further up the chain there. Julian wanted to have a quick chat with you about about your subject matter expertise of health care, and particularly aged care. In Victoria, we've seen that the age industry seems to be more prevalent than the age care and History. It's been quite shocking what we've seen we in some of the levels of care in the age education sector hasn't it?
Julie Ockerby 15:06
Yep. In the numbers that are already out there say when you think about the percentage of the daily numbers are related to age care. It's poor and it's dismal. And for the last three weeks, they haven't been getting any better. And, and I'll be honest, I don't know what the solution is, whilst Victoria particularly are in a state of panic, and exactly that Richard was saying, you know, the mood is flat. People don't, you know, six weeks, I think, is that right there and Richard, that that you guys are in and that that's if it's going well, I mean, it's grim. Um, but I think my concern is, for aged care, health care and all of our respective businesses is the snowball to all of our businesses in the US, in other states and even over to Europe. Southeast Asia like Betsy, you know, we rely on our neighbours whether they're domestic or international and and it's just this horrific snowball at the moment. So similarly to Richard I on the eternal optimist I mean when we started all these town halls I was very quick off the the reaction and reinvent the whole thing and I have to meet you know, this this week. And even though I'm not leaving Victoria, I have felt the the repercussions of what's going there and how it affects us and how long it's going to affect us. And then it's hard to bounce when when all that is existing around you.
Mark Bergin 16:41
And I think what's really interesting if I go look at the dilemmas that are coming around projects that were initiated and and have momentum seem to be continuing on I think that your case there Theo that you've got that house you're talking about, you know the people are coming in, say can you help us out tweak the office, that's a better you've got people who are saying, well, we're going to pick up a distressed asset, we'll we'll go and give it some uplift in there. But the pipeline to go and actually pitch a new project to create a new relationship to remind people that you exist, that's really hard. And, you know, what I think really important is that we're being frank about new ways of engaging and doing that pitching process during that engagement, because we've lost the casual contact at the restaurant, in a way you walk past somebody, we've lost being in the industry event where you're just going to bump into people. We've lost so many different ways that we had casual interactions, and socialization and I'm looking for work, which people say great, we know you're available. They know your capacity. They then say one plus one equals a recommendation to somebody. So that's a really important thing that we go focus on. And it's not just a few people that are experiences experiencing this It's an it's not just people in the design sector, it's right across the market, that people are finding it very difficult to work out how to create those social leads and the social opportunities that come come out through business. But I want to give a little bit more into into this idea about the better future framework that we're building on whether the social equity, the sustainable environment, and also the thriving economy. We've heard, we've heard a lot about policymakers, and also executives trying to say, well, it's going to be a new normal. And we know we're in the new abnormal and it is highly abnormal, what we're in at the moment, and somewhere between 12 and 24 months time that new abnormal should expiring, we then have to work out what the next normal is. And that means that you need to have framing. And so what I've tried to do by talking about when you get social equity when you go get the sustainable environment, a thriving economy, those three vectors seem to feed off each other and it became really To clear when we saw the George Floyd murder in in the US, Black Lives Matter rising, that there was a topic under that which was actually it was about racism. And it was about the lack of social equity that was there. And in the in the US, we know that actually is most exemplified by the African American community, but there's also problems in the Latino and Hispanic community as well as other forms of racism. But I think, you know, if I ever think back to every Star Wars movie, there was always How do we go hit get the one shot that takes out the Death Star? And I think in the states that actually have that go solve some of the issues around what they thought they'd solved with slavery, which was African American slavery, on plantations in the 13th amendment, but what's actually in the 13th amendment is this little thing that criminal slavery became legal, and that seems to be the problem where the incarceration rates are in there in Australia, we've got a similar issue. And you know, in the pre conversation, viewers We were talking about the idea that the US currency is actually dominant in Australia, in most countries in the world. But there's also a cultural currency that comes out of the US. And some of those ideas about African Americans being criminals, African Americans not being trustworthy as being rapists. All of that social stigma seems to come across into into Australia and or other countries as well. And so incarceration rates for indigenous people are horrific. You know, you've got the disease prevalence, similar to what you've got in the States as a multiply. But last week, the the federal government announced that there's actually a new wave behind the closing the gap initiative, and we'll have some links in there so you can read what the closing the gap report is, but basically, in 2005, that there was a report written that said in 25 years, let's make sure that we've closed the gap on the social inequities that are in Australia for indigenous and Taro Strait Islanders. What's really interesting, I just want to focus for a moment on what that actually means as a percentage of population. So if we had a busload of people and there were 30 people on the bus, one of them would be an average. If we turn around and we had 30 buses came along, one of them would be a Torres Islander. Okay, so that gives you an idea, but just how, as a relative number, that these people are actually quite small. There are over 600,000 or twice the number of temporary visa holders in Australia, then there are indigenous interest rate Islanders. And that's interesting. So, so we've got an economy which actually is abundant. And there's lots of means for people, but we have those people that are missing out. So let's work out how we put that in there. And, you know, what we've seen in the US and what we've seen in other parts of the world is that racism is basically an economic device. it winds up being actually something which is a Cultural stigmatism, but it's based on the theory that there isn't enough to go around. And if you don't get get it, then I'll get my share. And if you go think of people pushing in in a queue, it's a little bit like well, you go to the back of the queue because I'll go to the front of the queue. And it isn't the thing is 100% segregation, it just is that it's about half the impact. So, if the Australian economy grows, the indigenous population get half that growth compared to the rest of the nation, when it comes to economic but also when it comes to things like children, childhood development, birthweight of children, the under underweight percentage per thousand children in in the rest of the community. It's double that number in indigenous community when it comes to lifespan and that's it. That's a really interesting one, lifespan that you know, when in 2000 Five when the original report was written, there were 17 years difference between the average lifespan of an indigenous auteurist red Island, they 17 years difference between them and the rest of the population. That's now down to 11 years. But seeing is only 10 years left, and that takes three years to go and actually get one year. Based on that rate of change, we need to do something that's a step change. What I want to do is actually focus in then how do you create step change. And that's why there's a bunch of designers, it's really important that we think about this because design is actually about transformative change, not iterative change. If you're doing it or change then maybe go slow, but the lift is when you do the transformer side. And I take it all the way back to 1976. And in 1976, Australia had a really big embarrassment. We went to the we went to the Montreal Olympics, and we didn't come home with a gold medal. Now, for anybody who grew up in Australia in that period of time, it was devastating much We didn't get a gold medal, we're Australia, we always get gold medals. And we reflected on that. He said, we've got to do something that actually gives us a step change. How do we get back up on the on the podium how we ever we seem to be winners again. And so the Australian Institute of Sport was created. And the Australian Institute of Sport was that there was a gap that we needed to close between us and the rest of the world. And we have to work out how to accelerate that transformation. And for the viewers who have seen other town halls, you'll hear me always talking about how to accelerate to a better future. While in this case, we're just trying to accelerate to the same future for the indigenous population as we have for the for the rest of the country. And so we know that we can actually use transformation to do this. And what I want to talk about is, well, how do you go and approach that, you know, the, the government's announcement in the last last week, basically said, we've realized we're not doing anything, a bunch of things really well, and we've got a consultation period between now and the end of the year. Where we're going to be talking broadly with the community. It's built on the other consultations that they've been doing over the last five to 10 years. But we need to work out how it goes lift our game dramatically to work out, how do we close the gap? So out of out of the panelists here, who's actually had much contact with the indigenous community, please?
Hassan el Rayes 25:21
Can I raise my hand?
Mark Bergin 25:22
Hassan el Rayes 25:25
I just want to summarize some of the things you said and then get on to what we have done. And other organizations that we know of that have included indigenous people into the programs in the workforce. They are with this thing and to quote your T shirt Ma. This is never simple, simple, never simple. Racism is ageism, sexism. All these things are more complicated than we could solve. Otherwise, we would have already solved them in one city. I think in Australia and you reflect it to others This is not just the states but Europe as well. And Australia. The differences are Australia's sexism, sorry, racism is is a is low level, right? racism. It's not institutionalized racism where you're not allowed to go into certain places, or it's, it's put into law, those things can be changed easily if they're high level institutionalized racism through social engineering and social manipulation. Low Level racism is cultural racism. That's much harder to take effect over a long period of time. It's people's attitudes. It's people in denial. That actually is racism in Australia. And it is does exist but it's just a low level license in such manner as if I went for an interview. And an Aboriginal person and business person went for an interview. I'm more likely to get the job even though I'm the son of migrants than they are and you can't regulate that, and I can give you many more more examples of it. But just to compound what you're saying, there has actually been a program out put out by the federal government three years ago that's been acting slowly. And nobody seems to know about it, at a snail's pace, have an indigenous participation program that every government department has to put into place. And to have an uptake of at least 3% of their population, they start to be of indigenous background. And that's been sitting this dormant, silent for three years. I've taken upon ourselves as a private organization to adopt this man, a participation program. We went to the effort of actually going and giving it a name and a structure. We went to the local elders in the tullamarine area where our factory and headquarters based and got a name for the program. We call it gone boo, which means first and then What we noticed is when we were on this journey of learning, and we opened up the dialogue with our staff, we realized we had 40% sorry, 40 people within our workforce or 1400, that were of indigenous background, but they didn't have the voice or the strength to say, and of this culture until the platform. So, this these are the kind of subtle things that you know, you have to socially engineer to get past the parameters of these friction. He tried to get in the 3% workforce, we realized that we were on a journey where we were doing a lot of things ourselves, and me personally, I talked about me personally, and I told anyone else when I was trying to do Welcome to Country in my openings here in the showroom, or assembly, and then when we had the indigenous people come and correct me say, you shouldn't actually do welcome to the country, you should do acknowledgementy. And for all my good intentions, I was stepping on cultural toes.
Mark Bergin 29:08
Isn't it great to stumble like that? So, you had the intention, and you've got the correction. And you're then abe to go and actually pass that knowledge on to others and that stumbling is really important.
Hassan el Rayes 29:21
It was very welcomed, it was very welcome. And that's the kind of participation over a period of time that would hopefully deteriorate the low level racism. of Yeah, I've got one Aboriginal friend, or I've got one, you know, black friend, it's an and not seeing them for the exterior of of seeing for the interior of what they are. That's the thing that goes low level racism that we've all deteriorate over long periods of time. Um, but in saying that your point about the numbers are very significant because we found to even get to the 3% Staff levels that we wanted, it's actually quite difficult. Because I, it's a trying to get staff to engage with us and understand their cultural traits that they have and how we can lend to them. We realized we were very, very lacking of understanding of our own culture here in Australia. Mm hmm. We didn't know that. The fact that sometimes when when a Aboriginal person has a major family issue, it's almost mandated on them that they go and resolve it in their hometown, like a funeral. And if an elder demands of them to do so it's almost like breaking the law if they don't. So we've been on a big learning curve as well. And transposing those, that from one region to the next has been difficult as well. So We were basically very proud of the fact that we've taken this on gombert we feel like this is the small little steps that we can take and a community we just hope that other people especially the government could really understand them more than anyone to take these things on.
Mark Bergin 31:20
I think that that stumbling You know, I'm always very proud that I learned to walk by stumbling. Okay, I didn't just say I'm going to walk one day. That stumbling is a such an important thing that we allow people to try. And we correct them, which is how you learn to walk. We also shouldn't be allowing people to actually say, I don't know, and that that's okay. Because then then learning can take place there. Richard, I want to go back to you and and have a little bit of a chat about the Sydney Olympics and the indigenous flavor that came around the branding and the visual identity for that. Have you had much engagement with indigenous community before you worked on that project?
Richard Henderson 32:02
No Mark, not a professional sense, although my sister has been married to two Aboriginals in her life. So that's a slight personal connection. Our approach to the Sydney 2000 Olympics came about really because the organizing committee wanted to be 100% Australian, and they wanted it to be the athlete gains. And we were trying to find that unique element of Australia that was represented by your buck by being a graphic sense. And we found that the Aboriginal, if you like a connection was very important, but we had to be as, as we just mentioned before, we had to be incredibly respectful of Aboriginal culture and natural fact had to have the identity sanctified by a leadership group to make sure it was within the bounds of not misrepresentation. Of course, the other thing that happened when it did did come out, I was launched, there was a fair bit of about vocal commentary about the fact that we were using an Aboriginal symbol of the boomerang as part of the design of our design treatment. On the other hand, from our point of view, we're honoring, probably the most utilitarian design a piece of Aboriginal artwork or artifact that you could find but both as a functional item as a killing, or weapon, if you like, and as a decorative device, and also Thirdly, symbolic so you know, it was a really was a very interesting sort of process. And we were inspired by the author in the group, etc. We put the music on and we got into that sort of tribal rhythm, especially Korea as a as a, you know, white people. But I think it did resonate because it did try and connect with something so deep and meaningful, but with a with, I think, a respect, and you've got to be you're going to be very, very Are you conscious of their traditions and also their rites of passage, which is, you know, just as important as anyone else.
Mark Bergin 34:10
And I will mention here as you were going through that process with the good intensions to go show respect and to talk about the symbolism, that there may have been allegations of cultural appropriation, of actually not getting permissions. And often that comes from some people who have been very frustrated over a long period of time. That's not particularly a gentle conversation, it can be quite sharp can't it?
Richard Henderson 34:38
Well, I think, yeah, because I think a lot of times there's been a lot of abuse in many different ways, and we're very familiar with that. I think the only other thing to say about it is that interestingly, you know, the Sydney 2000 identity which used some reference to culture was not really I suppose, regardless a highlight of design treatment in Australia. But from an overseas point of view, it has helped sum up the international attitude towards Australia and what Australia represented to an international opportunity international eyes. So it's a very, this whole subject is incredibly interesting, complex and has to be treated with a great deal of respect for both sides actually, because there's no doubt that from a design point of view from our aesthetic, we only wanted to do good. We were not looking to plagiarize or, or be disrespectful to anyone but particularly Australia and everyone involved with the Olympics.
Mark Bergin 35:33
So, Julie, I'm interested in your coming in as a and as a refugee, immigrant to Australia. How have you been able to get a grasp on where the indigenous culture fits and how it works because I used to be married to a Swede and she was bamboozled by she just said, I don't understand this and I'm getting it. We don't understand it either. Was it something that it was just confusing? As organic because I know I was born here, and it's confusing to me, and I can't find as many hooks to actually get my knowledge up. When I when I've gone and read the closing the gap Report. I'm just horrified by the the language that I'm reading in there, which says we so inept that after all these years, the government is coming out with this sort of language and even the iconography that they're using the report has white babies and white families on a report about, about trying to integrate indigenous people in their gang. You know, this isn't crazy. What have you found as you've tried to get a grasp on it?
Julie Ockerby 36:36
Well, we arrived here in 75, where it was the fall of the South Vietnam to the North Vietnam and from a War Vets point of view, the Vietnam War was still very role out there in the community. So similar to what we've discussed before, my parents actually told my brother and I, if anyone asked where you come from, it's much easier if you just said Singapore, rather than from Vietnam. Because there's no questions asked sort of thing. And it's like a safe platform. But as I've grown older, it was just, you know, one embellishment or a lie on top of another. And, and, and I find and suppressing the truth here. And so what I'm getting at is, you know, the suppressing of of our indigenous and not having them included in community or pushed aside into their communities, but not acknowledging the challenges that they have. I always found that oh my gosh, we're in a country where there is such an exotic race, and group of people and community of people yet with two worlds pop in one country and It's not just here. I mean in in North America, it's the same and, and in parts of Asia like intra Asia that there's issues, it's just a dominant issue. And, and I think just growing up, I lived in a very multicultural suburb and went to a very multicultural school. So personally, I never had any issues of racism or anything, but I always knew it existed. But you never really saw blended families so much, you know, the Asians married Asians and Caucasians marry Caucasians, Italians, the same, etc. And it's probably this next generation, like our generation where we've mixed, mixed it up a little. I mean, my kids are Eurasian and they're part of many eurasians now in in their culture and and i think their ability to accept it because it's part more part of schooling and education. I really think a lot of these is about education, whereas generation and before it was suppressed, and anything that was difficult was suppressed. So it goes back to you know, "Julie, if anyone asks you where you come from, you just say Singapore", it's much easier just to supress the truth rather than just go I'm from Vietnam, you know?
Mark Bergin 39:17
It's very interesting. Now, Richard, I believe you need to go, you've got a stage four client dilemma that's come up. I understand. That happens here. Thank you for joining us. We're going to continue on here but we understand you need to drop off.
Richard Henderson 39:31
Thank you very much Mark and good luck for everyone.
Mark Bergin 39:34
Cheers. So Julie, okay, that's really interesting that you're talking about the not not talking about where you came from. And then you've talked then about when you dug into the staff, you found out that there was actually more staff who had an indigenous connection then than you initially thought. And so that's a very interesting thing about when there is no pride or there isn't Racism is actually don't tell people that you're a Jew, don't tell them that you're a Muslim, don't tell them that you're a Hindu, don't tell them that you're that you're Greek that you're telling them that you're via don't like there's all these don't mention something that may disadvantages. And that's, and that's the really big problem that you find with racism in there. And I suppose what I wanted to do was actually just get down to really that that kernel of this is actually closing the gap is actually about dealing with an element of racism. But let's get these people up to the same level. And then there's actually a whole conversation that goes beyond that. These are big topics. They're very complicated in there. So you know, we've been, we've been chatting here a bit, I think your family's great, great background, otherwise, you'd probably be called Pedro. If you are from science. I will, let's stick with the great background there. And, and so, you know, you've probably seen various waves of racism that have come in coming to you, but it can Be nothing like the indigenous people that are here. You know, as immigrants, you're welcomed into the country and you get the economic lift and you get the opportunity. It's still hard. These people have just kind of been marginalized and systemically marginalized.
Theodore Kerlidis 41:15
It's really interesting Mark. I think, as a young as a young guy growing up, you're buffeted by this. There's there's a whole range of things around you to protect you equally. And those protection mechanisms are quite limiting, or can be quite limiting. I know with my circumstance, my parents chose to do quite the opposite from what you're experiencing Julie around suppression. So as as a kid growing up, I didn't really understand what racism was about. I am who I am. Take it oe leave it. Now to a certain degree you can get, I've got away with a bit of that, because I was always a big kid bigger than anyone else. So the physicality of of that, in my particular experience allowed me to, to, you know, write the sitemap of racism, but around the there was actually a lot of you know, there was a lot of there was a lot of that playing out that you that you know what racism looks like, and it's not a pretty sight at all. I think. I think with any of this, I think it all starts with us. No, irrespective of our background, I mean, you know, you can be British experience racism. In the American Experience racism, you can be an Australian experience racism. And I really, I don't understand race. I never have, I guess, you know, Mark with, you know, with in your circumstance as well I think, you know, it's it's true like, you know, we shouldn't give it oxygen and I think you know that that, that change that step change that's needed starts with us like it's simply it's simply not to racism I know there's prejudices and notice history and others culture but but it is simply like what you're saying before Mark it's simply no there is no room for it. And just because someone's different doesn't mean that they're better or worse. And it really is, you know, again, never simple but I think it is simple that it is with us with within all of us to have the power we don't it doesn't need to be legislated. Although, you know, probably would make it easier if it was but you know, legislation often follows you know the popular belief systems and people to vote to mandate what is normal but you know if we all take the view that there is no place for racism because racism has no place, then racism doesn't in my view exist and doesn't exist in my world, and we don't tolerate it.
Mark Bergin 44:23
Well I what I want to do here is I want to wrap this up. And because I think what we've got is a point where there's a lot of consideration here. And how I want to wrap it up is that of one of the New York town halls. Joba gola from Studio v. architect, J said, what COVID has taught us is that it's actually it's no longer about me, it's actually about we were safe when others are safe. Whereas it used to be unsafe, you know, me, me, me, me, me. And so we've now got this mutuality that say And I hope that through this conversation and we're going to continue this, that we begin to work out how do we go get the way to work? And in particular, how do we make sure that we're doing things that help accelerate and close the gap there? I'm going to reach out to a bunch of indigenous designers, indigenous executives, and ask them how can we help and how can we participate? I do thank you all for your time here. And I look forward to having continuing conversations about how do we actually make sure that social equity a sustainable environment and a thriving economy can come together Thank you for your time. Have a good day therefore say I want to do something he was still recording. Okay. Okay. Um, feels we thought this session that ended but as we add Julie tap and drop off with we continue to talk has you're talking about that maybe there's a need for some legislation. I think they are you brought up that maybe that they just say that we're in stage four lockdown because 25 5% of the people who were diagnosed infected with covid weren't staying home. That's the problem with racism. 25% of the population still say Me, me, me. That's why you need to actually put it in the like the hardware, the legislation because sometimes people aren't going to do the right thing. So Hass, help us out here, let's extend this a little.
Hassan el Rayes 46:23
Some people with certain attitudes, they let them rest on their laurels where they say, Well, we've done what we should do. And you we've increased the, the wages by 10%. For certain cultural groups are we've reduced, we've given them more welfare, or we're doing these minor little steps, which then bring us into equality, or equity for that sake. And it's almost like you should be grateful that we've given you these little crumbs to along the way to make you part of what we want. ourselves to be much at a higher level. But the problems there that all this low level cultural racism, paying your place then you pay in your area stay segregated. It doesn't allow for a society of diversity or a pluralistic nature. It's actually giving us the awesome then mentality and no society in history has ever survived when you force people to behave in a certain way and deny or hide their cultural traits or their inner being, so I can't be Australian of an Egyptian background.
Mark Bergin 47:39
And so what I want to do there is not so much shine a torch on the statement that Theo made, because I think what you've done the A has since you've extended you shine that you show the spotlight on Oh gosh, there's there's other considerations, which is what a growing conversation does you know. I know for Betsy for you is coming with her With exposure to Hong Kong exposure to Australia exposure to the US as your country of birth, you pick up so many different ways cultural morays there.
Betsy Sweat 48:11
In fact there are a few points I wanted to make while we were talking particularly Mark about the I've done my part kind of thing. I have to say it was very interesting. I've been in Hong Kong now 26 years. Chinese communities are very different across different parts of China and in Hong Kong and what this community is, it's we are 7 million people. But when you have a cold long before COVID, you wear a mask. Yeah. And and you will historically seat people with masks on and no one points or no one thinks what are they doing? It's all about I'm protecting you from what I have. And so when COVID hit Everyone wore a mask. There was never a time when anyone even questioned whether or not it was going to be a good thing. And I think this there's a tremendous sense of community, even among all of the different groups of people that live here. And yes, there is racism here in Hong Kong. There, of course, is racism in my home country, which I haven't lived in, in many, many years. But the sense of racism is still inclusive. It is how do we bring them into the fold to understand if you're going to be part of a community, you adapt to what the community requires of you? And it's that sense of how do we get people to understand that this is for the good of community and one of the things that we started early on and when you are you were talking about the indigenous people of Australia. I personally don't have as much experience until I'm going to be on the ground when we're looking for expansion of our h2 garbage or Australia. We will be addressing those issues about employment and inclusion and things like that, but what I want to say is, racism in social inequality is a learned behavior. If we aren't teaching people to look at people differently, it doesn't happen. appointing cases I had, you know, my, my son was 18 months. When we came to Australia, he's half Chinese. No one ever asked him what he was, no one ever looked at him differently. His friends were of all different cultural backgrounds. But when he went back to the States, as a 12 year old for middle school, the first question they asked him is literally Dude, what are you? And he didn't even know what the question was. If someone had to explain to him where your parents from, what's your nationality what, because that's the way people thought. Now, based on that they put you into a box Dude, you're not Chinese, you're your surnames Chinese, you don't look Chinese you sound American, you can't be Chinese. So you're allowed to go with us, kind of thing. But that's all about how generational changes need to really occur not only from an educational standpoint, but from a humanism standpoint, to be much more inclusive.
Mark Bergin 51:24
And Betsy, there's a there's a particular reason why I referred to the social equity. And then you wind up with racism in one part of social inequity and then the indigenous population or the African American population... So, you know, the catch all is about being inclusive. We know that there's an economically from it and it's the right thing to do. But I'm now in lockdown, where I'm not allowed to even walk out on the street for exercise, because 25% of the people who were infected with COVID decided this It was better for them to go actually do what they wanted them to go do what was mandated by law. And so I think that's the interesting thing. You know, this was law that they were breaking, but they said I've been I've got, it's about me, I have to do my thing. Rather than than that, rather than what you were talking about Betsy, with in Hong Kong. I'm protecting you. They just wanted to actually look after themselves. So we've got very problematic cultural things where people are actually not being responsible. They're not actually being generous, and they're not trying to actually be that way. And that's probably the big thing. Social Inclusion is all about we, it's not about me. After you've got the WE sorted out you can start to work at yourself, but you've got to make sure you get everyone there. I'm going to wrap this up for our viewers, again team, thank-you so much.
Hosted by: Mark Bergin
Podcast production: Pat Daly
Show notes: Lucy Grant