Professional services firm opens its new Wollongong office with a traditional Aboriginal Smoking Ceremony

Traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony: Catherine Hunter, Uncle Max Harrison and KPMG Wollongong managing partner Warwick Shanks. Picture: Greg Ellis.
Traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony: Catherine Hunter, Uncle Max Harrison and KPMG Wollongong managing partner Warwick Shanks. Picture: Greg Ellis.

KPMG Wollongong helped promote reconciliation on Monday when staff arrived at work for the first day in their new Market Street office.

Managing partner Warwick Shanks said a traditional Aboriginal Smoking Ceremony helped the whole team make a new start.

Mr Shanks said it was very important to KPMG and him personally to openly and respectfully recognise the traditional owners of the land.

Uncle Max Harrison conducted the cleansing ceremony just before 9am and said KPMG Wollongong was helping send an important message to Australia.

“It is closing the gap. It is bringing ideas together. It is very important that people can understand Aboriginal culture. I have given a cleansing of the people who will now go into this centre in a clean spirit,” he said.

KPMG’s partner corporate citizenship Catherine Hunter said it was an honour to be welcomed by and receive such a blessing.

The words Uncle Max said in traditional language were about opening the mind to truth, seeking truth, speaking truth, hearing truth and living truth.

Ms Hunter said it was the fifth new KPMG office in Australia to open with such a ceremony. 

“Reconciliation is very important to our core values as an organisation,” she said.

“Each office has now started to want to do this to acknowledge and recognise our history and culture as Australians. I am really thrilled that it is becoming embedded in the organisation and our people are all wanting to do it themselves. So it is becoming very important to us as an organisation.”

Ms Hunter said it was a pleasure to have a national role as head of all KPMG’s social and environmental work.

“That includes the Reconciliation Action Plan and all of our engagement with indigenous Australians,” she said.

Ms Hunter said in her youth she gained an understanding of the richness and significance or Aboriginal culture and what it means. “It has become a real passion”.

She said it was good to work in an organisation that has become recognised as a leader in business engagement in such an important area.

“It is becoming embedded in the values and culture of the firm. It is something the we hold very dear,” she said.

Ms Hunter said as a nation it was good to acknowledge our shared past and be able to move forward together. “I think it is one of the most important national issues”.

Mr Shanks said there were several reasons behind KPMG Wollongong’s move west along Market Street into the ahm building.

“It recognises the growth of our practice and the need for more space. It also recognises the agile way of working in a different style which is better for our staff and..in the way we service our clients.”

Mr Shanks said Monday’s traditional smoking ceremony would be very memorable for everyone at KPMG Wollongong.