Infosys held the first Asia-Pacifc leg of their regular Confluence partner & customer event recently in Melbourne, over the weekend of the Australian Open. Confluence APAC was a terrific conference, showcasing Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, real time analytics, learning platforms, and blockchain-as-a-service. There was a great many highly relevant customer stories, novel and truly gripping keynote speeches about Antarctica and the Thai soccer team cave rescue, and tennis. As a major sponsor of the Open, Infosys was able to access behind-the-scenes tours and tickets for all delegates to the women’s and men’s singles finals. It was really superb.
Yet what struck me the most about Confluence was its formal recognition of Australia’s first peoples, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
It’s normal these days for public events in Australia to open with a formal acknowledgement of the original custodians of the local land, calling out the first nation and language group of where the meeting is taking place. What’s much rarer is the full Welcome to Country. This ceremony can take 20-30 minutes and must be led by Aboriginal Elders. At Confluence on January 26, we were treated to dancers, the music of the unique didgeridoo, and a beautiful speech by Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Ian Hunter. He told us at length about his local culture, the classic Aboriginal sense of humour, and he touched frankly and calmly on the sensitive issue of Australia Day, a contentious national holiday which fell that very day.
Now, while a Welcome to Country is rare, what followed was absolutely unique in my thirty years experience in the Australian tech sector. Australia-New Zealand Regional Head Andrew Groth gave his opening address and took time – indeed he took up most of his speech – to celebrate our first peoples. He called out their care of the land over tens of thousands of years, their innovation and their technology, which they deployed at continental scale. Groth made special mention of the Brewarrina fish traps which are thought to be the oldest surviving artificial structures anywhere on the planet.
Bravo Infosys! May more of us in technology come to embrace indigenous science and innovation, wherever we’re from, as a mark of respect, and because we all have so much more to learn.