Director's message

Rebecca Harris

It is with great pleasure that I present to the Parliament of Western Australia, public authorities and the broader Western Australian community my inaugural annual report as Director of Equal Opportunity in Public Employment. As a statutory officer I am in a unique position to drive the diversity and inclusion agenda in public employment and I have enjoyed the opportunity to make a difference.

Over the past year I sought to move beyond statistics to focus on bringing diversity and inclusion in public employment back to the 'front-of–mind' for leaders and people managers. By establishing an across public sector 'Community of influence' among our Chief human resource officers a shared understanding was developed—that a diverse workforce, free of discrimination and reflective of the community, is more innovative and productive and better able to deliver high quality services.

Strengthening workforce planning

To improve diversity outcomes the Public Sector Commissioner and I collaborated on a range of workforce initiatives to build inclusive workplaces, strengthen workforce planning capability and integrate workforce diversity strategies. One of our key initiatives was to bring the Australian workforce planning standard (the standard) to public employment in this State. The standard sets out key features of a workforce plan and how to develop such a plan. I have been pleased to assist agencies to engage with the standard to support strategic, operational and workforce management planning.

While there are varying levels of capability in workforce and diversity planning, I was delighted to see a significant shift in the capacity of the local government sector. More integrated workforce and diversity plans were completed than ever before and are fit for purpose with workforce and diversity data regularly monitored and used to inform the future direction of local government authorities.

Removing unconscious biases

Underpinning the effectiveness of workforce and diversity plans was our new approach to working with people managers to ensure those responsible for employment decisions are aware of their unconscious and conscious biases and how these can impact on the composition of their workforce. The removal of unconscious biases forms the basis of new strategies released this year including Time for action: Diversity and inclusion in public employment and See my abilities: An employment strategy for people with disability.

These strategies were supported by a series of forums entitled Managing unconscious bias in the workplace, developed in partnership with the Australian Human Resources Institute and delivered in collaboration with the Public Sector Commission. The success of this series of forums resulted in public sector-wide implementation of the learnings and has assisted people managers to attract a more diverse talent pool and be able to support, and retain, diverse talent once employed.

Comparing the data

This annual report aims to provide a snapshot of diversity and inclusion in the public sector and the positive contributions being made to ensure the workforce reflects the communities we serve. The data used is provided by public authorities and shows a clear picture of our workforce. It is pleasing to note the proportion of employees identifying their diversity status with their employer, across the groups of Aboriginal Australians, people with disability and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, has increased, on average, more than 11 per cent over the last three years.

Under Time for action we aim to encourage current employees to feel empowered to disclose their diversity status and I hope these figures will continue to strengthen in future years.

I have presented the data and information this year both by sector and by diversity group to provide points of comparison. I have also delved beyond the representation rates to provide a more comprehensive picture of the state of diversity and inclusion in public employment. I hope that you find this information useful, as you continue to refine your diversity and inclusion strategies.

Finally, I would like to extend my thanks to the Public Sector Commissioner for his support of the position that public employment can lead by example and demonstrate what productive, diverse and inclusive workplaces can look like. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in the coming year as we commence further diversity initiatives as part of our agenda.

Rebecca Harris


9 September 2016

Page last updated 15 September 2016