Directors message

As we seek creative solutions to complex challenges, the case for diversity and inclusion has never been stronger.

Rebecca Harris is A/Executive Director Strategic Engagement and Coordination at the Public Sector Commission and holds the statutory position of Director of Equal Opportunity in Public Employment

Not only are diverse workforces more representative of the communities we live in, diversity sparks the innovation to improve and further develop our future workforces. Inclusive cultures that value and celebrate diversity not only unlock innovative potential, but deliver better employee engagement and productivity. 

I am pleased to present my annual report as Director of Equal Opportunity in Public Employment to the Parliament of Western Australia, public authorities and the Western Australian community.

In this reporting period I have focused on the objectives of my statutory office and how these translate into strategic actions and deliverable outcomes for public authorities. 

Meeting commitments

Authorities remained engaged and committed to building diversity and inclusion through the implementation of integrated workforce and diversity plans and Equal employment opportunity (EEO) management plans and programs. 

Over the past year, along with the Public Sector Commissioner, I have had the opportunity to meet with many authorities to provide guidance and assistance on workforce management and planning.

While management commitment is strong, and mandatory governance and policy frameworks are in place, I have observed a gap between policy and practice. A more representative workforce requires a sustained effort from all employers over the long term. I acknowledge that improvement in practice may be incremental, but I am committed to joining authorities on the journey to bridging this gap. 

Recruiting for diversity

I have continued to work closely and strategically with the Public Sector Commissioner on equal opportunity, workforce planning and the development of sector-wide programs.

This year the Public Sector Commissioner and I analysed the recruitment practices of a selected group of public sector agencies. While findings show the importance of diversity and inclusion is well understood, a clear link between strategic outcomes, workforce planning, and recruitment practices could be further strengthened.

A review of recently submitted EEO management plans also revealed that current diversity data is not always used to inform and drive talent acquisition. 

A focus on achieving diversity goals or targets is important to deliver the positive outcomes a diverse workforce brings. Diversity of thought, experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds is crucial to the development of new ideas and practices. 

To achieve and maintain diversity targets, public authorities would benefit from developing attraction, selection and development processes that appeal to a diverse range of candidates. We need to move away from traditional models of advertising and actively engage with prospective candidates. 

People managers should consider a more active model, collaborating with practitioners in similar authorities, diversity employment specialists and industry experts to assist them to attract and recruit for diversity.

In short, this means finding new ways to attract high-quality candidates, streamline application processes and explore new and effective ways of assessing candidates. Public authorities must build relationships with communities and service providers in order to develop solutions.

Focusing on retention and engagement

A focus on retention and engagement strategies is also required so diversity can be fully integrated in public authorities. Strategies for professional development, leadership training, performance reviews and feedback, and a consideration of working hours and conditions should be in place for all employees. The Public Sector Commission’s employee perception survey data indicates there is still work to be done in ensuring our diverse employees are productive, engaged and safe in our workplaces.

Authorities must also recognise the often unseen discrimination that is a result of unconscious bias and proactively work to eliminate it.

Disclosing diversi​ty

Many public authorities have seen an increase in the number of employees self-disclosing their diversity status this year, meaning I have a more accurate picture of the diversity of our sectors. It indicates authorities have likely been more proactive in collecting diversity information, with our data showing 85 per cent of public authorities this year had strategies in place to encourage disclosure. The employee perception survey data also indicates 69 per cent of public sector employees think their workplace culture makes people feel comfortable to disclose.

Strengthe​ning relationships

A strong theme underpins many of my observations and interactions across the year – that is, the importance of strong relationships in achieving collective goals and positive outcomes. 

This year I have engaged in productive consultation with key industry stakeholders to inform our diversity and inclusion approach. I thank my colleagues who have agreed to be featured in this report. In doing so I have been able to strengthen existing relationships and develop new ones, while ensuring our strategic direction is contemporary and resonates well with prospective and current employees. I encourage public authorities to do the same.

Delivering on​ government targets

I have been pleased to meet with the Service Priority Review panel and Secretariat, as well as the Directors General working groups on the issue of increasing diversity. In the coming months I am keen to work with the recommendations from each group to progress the diversity agenda and to strengthen workforce planning capability across the sectors.

I will provide support to Government boards, committees and advisory groups as they work towards increasing their numbers of women members to achieve the Western Australian Government’s target of 50 per cent representation across all boards by 2019.

Finally, I would like to thank the Public Sector Commissioner for his support and ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion in public employment. 

Rebecca Harris


14 September 2017

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Page last updated 14 September 2017