Aboriginal Australians

Beyond increasing the representation of Aboriginal Australians in workforces, our discussions and broader research has highlighted career advancement as a growing issue as existing Aboriginal employment practices mature. That is, career advancement and progression that goes beyond Aboriginal-focused roles and into mainstream public service positions. 5

EEO survey data shows a higher concentration of Aboriginal Australians employed at lower classifications, with few being employed in senior roles. Local government authorities and other authorities have indicated that they are yet to fully implement strategies designed to provide leadership, development and advancement opportunities. Some public sector agencies indicated they offer opportunities through Section 50(d) ‘genuine occupational qualifications’ exemptions, traineeships and cadetships for Aboriginal employees. 

Almost 47 per cent of all public authorities do not have strategies in place for leadership, development and advancement opportunities for Aboriginal employees. Shifting strategic priorities to advancing and developing Aboriginal employees is an important next step for public authorities.

Towards this outcome, a range of actions to assist authorities to attract, retain and develop their Aboriginal talent are included in the ‘Attract, appoint and advance’ employment strategy developed by the DEOPE in partnership with the Commissioner.

‘Attract, appoint and advance’ forms another chapter in the Commission and DEOPE’s ‘Time for action’ employment strategy series and was developed in consultation with a range of stakeholders. The strategy was launched to Chief Human Resource Officers and Chief Executive Officers at a network conversation series in October 2016. 

Just over half of all public authorities, 32 per cent, use ‘Attract, appoint and advance’ to inform and develop their Aboriginal employment approach.

2618 Aboriginal Australians are employed in the public sector

Diversity snapshot - Aboriginal Australians

Compared with 2016, 108 more employees in the public sector have identified as Aboriginal Australians.

The data reflects a high concentration of Aboriginal Australians at positions within the lower salary bands and comparatively low representation in salary bands 6 and upwards.

A closer look at the roles occupied by Aboriginal employers indicate that nearly a quarter of Aboriginal Australians are education assistants and Aboriginal and Islander Education Officers. A large proportion of Aboriginal employees are in clerical, health and welfare support roles, with a strong focus on supporting the Indigenous community.

Employees from public authorities that capture broader gender diversity, including Aboriginal Australians have used the opportunity, to identify their gender as X (indeterminate, intersex, unspecified).

Strengtheni​ng relationships

In November 2016, the DEOPE and Commissioner hosted a luncheon for public sector CEOs with the CEO and board members of Reconciliation WA and the Regional Services Reform Unit. The discussion focused on the role of reconciliation towards improving workforce participation and representation. 

Developing and strengthening relationships with Aboriginal communities and organisations in order to better understand barriers to employment was also a key theme. This event followed a meeting of the DEOPE and Public Sector Commissioner with the CEO and Executive Director of Reconciliation Australia on the Commission’s own reconciliation journey.

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Representation of Aboriginal Austral​​ians 

  Category of employment

Representation (%)

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Public sector

Public sector (All staff)

3.0

2.9

2.8

2.7

2.7

Local governments (LGA)

LGA (Indoor workers)

1.7

1.4

1.2

1.5

1.0

LGA (Outdoor workers)

6.3

4.6

4.2

3.9

3.8

Public universities

Public universities (Academic staff)

1.0

0.9

1.0

1.1

0.6

Public universities (General staff)

1.1

0.9

1.0

1.1

0.8

Other authorities

Other authorities (All staff)

1.5

1.6

1.5

1.7

2.0

Distribution (equity index) of Aboriginal Australians​​ 

  Category of employment

Distribution

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Public sector

Public sector (All staff)

39

41

42

42

41

Local governments (LGA)

LGA (Indoor workers)

60

59

60

60

65

LGA (Outdoor workers)

90

87

86

110

86

Public universities

Public universities (Academic staff)

85

90

77

77

89

Public universities (General staff)

61

57

60

64

70

Other authorities

Other authorities (All staff)

49

53

49

46

42

The DEOPE remains committed to strengthening the employment of Aboriginal Australians living in regional and remote communities and has supported the Regional Services Reform Unit’s messages on local Aboriginal employment. 

Forty six per cent of all authorities are aware of the Resilient Families, Strong Communities: A roadmap for regional and remote Aboriginal communities reform project and more specifically the Aboriginal regional employment package which focuses on employing local Aboriginal people in the public sector.

In focus

Aboriginal employment register

During the reporting period the Department of Communities (formally the Department for Child Protection and Family Support) has continued to promote its Aboriginal Employment Register, an initiative of the department’s Aboriginal Recruitment and Retention Strategy.

The Aboriginal Employment Register is a candidate attraction and communication strategy which aims to keep subscribers informed about upcoming job opportunities or other news in a more interactive and engaging way. 

The subscription method is a simple two-step process beginning with the completion of an online survey which asks basic questions about an applicant’s knowledge, skills and experience, and the types of roles that would be of interest to them. Applicants then have the option of attaching their CV and may provide consent for their details to be referred to hiring managers when suitable vacancies arise. 

The second step is a confirmation of their registration to the department’s digital newsletter platform to receive communications about upcoming jobs and state-wide recruitment campaigns. The digital format allows the department to incorporate engaging media elements, such as video, and social media links. Metrics allow the department to measure engagement, and identify messaging and content that is resonating with the target audience. 

Encouragingly, the department’s registered applicants continues to grow, with more than 250 people subscribed.

In 2017, the DEOPE and Commission introduced a university cadetship program (UCP) specifically for Aboriginal Australians. The UCP provides an opportunity to high-calibre Aboriginal students in their final year of an undergraduate degree who are considering a career in public service, to supplement their studies with a 60 day work placement. 

This year, three Aboriginal cadets were placed in public sector agencies determined to be a good match with their field of tertiary study. On completing the UCP, cadets are more informed and competitive for future opportunities in public employment.

In focus

University cadetships

In March 2017, the Ombudsman Western Australia hosted Douglas Nelson, a cadet in his final year of a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Law and Society and Indigenous Studies at the University of Western Australia. Douglas has also been selected to attend the Global Indigenous Engagement Program to be held in Fiji.

Doug N​elson (Cadet)

‘My time at the Ombudsman so far has been both an amazing opportunity and a rewarding privilege. The Ombudsman has allowed a platform for me to be exposed to a range of services that the Ombudsman is responsible for, within its jurisdiction. It has given me a keen and perceptive insight into the administration process in regard to receiving, investigating, and resolving complaints about universities, state agencies, and local government. I have been assigned a number of projects to work on in respect to how the Ombudsman can make its services more available and aware to Aboriginal Australians. One of the projects involves the process of how phone operators taking calls can improve the communication to be culturally appropriate to the needs of Aboriginal Australians.

The staff at the Ombudsman have been unprecedented in offering support towards my cadetship. I am extremely grateful for their unwavering assistance, by helping me both gain invaluable experience while at the Ombudsman and providing assurance in my project. I hope the Ombudsman will learn as much from me as I will learn from them.’

Alison Gibson (Principa​l Aboriginal Liaison Officer)

‘Cadet Douglas Nelson is currently working on a project that examines the Office’s accessibility to Aboriginal people. He has reviewed the Ombudsman WA’s publicly available material, internal policies and procedures and has worked with staff across a number of teams. His cultural knowledge combined with his passion for this subject and excellent research skills will provide the Ombudsman with a resource that will contribute to increasing cultural awareness and staff capacity, as well as accessibility to and awareness of the Ombudsman WA for Aboriginal Western Australians.’

 

5 PWC and Institute of Public Administration Australia Victoria (IPAA) 2013, Beyond Attraction and Retention: Indigenous career advancement and opportunities

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Page last updated 14 September 2017