Indigenous Workplace Diversity: Myths, Insights, and Effective Actions

As diversity and inclusion practice becomes more integrated within human resources and other business strategy, the effective implementation of initiatives that address Indigenous workplace diversity seem to remain elusive. Is it that the prominence of gender equality and other diversity segments have taken centre stage at the expense of a broader approach, or is Indigenous workplace diversity seen as an area where the myths overcome what’s needed for positive and effective approaches?

Last week in Sydney, Peoplecorp proudly hosted a session to explore these and other related issues. Two of Australia’s leading diversity and inclusion practitioners, Troy Roderick and Nareen Young, led a discussion with around 30 guests to look at:

  • the myths and truths about Indigenous workplace representation and capability;
  • emerging practice around attraction and recruitment;
  • addressing bias; and
  • actions that leaders can take to enable Indigenous inclusion and opportunity.

Beginning the discussion with reference to the latest “Closing the Gap” Report from the Australian Government, Troy noted the mixed level of success against the various measures, highlighting in particular that while early childhood learning and high school attainment were looking positive, the important indicator around Indigenous employment had stalled.

Nareen remained hopeful, however, that the enormous goodwill and dedication through targeted programs, by many employers both large and small, is what will see this indicator improve. Drawing on her decades of experience, Nareen reflected positively on the dedication of effort in organisations to genuinely attract and retain more Indigenous employees, particularly through the development and implementation of Reconciliation Action Plans. Troy and Nareen highlighted the following as some of the key ingredients to good practice:

  • segmented approaches to Indigenous employment branding and advertising, with targeted channels and specific examples of success stories of Indigenous employment from your organisation;
  • a diversified approach to employment pathways via traineeships and internships, remembering that a real job at the end is the main objective;
  • engaging authentically to build cultural appreciation, drawing on the living and enduring culture within your organisation to share heritage and culture;
  • remaining open to the fact that Indigenous career-seekers are a diverse, skilled and capable talent cohort who have abilities in both mainstream and emerging occupations, represented beyond the stereotypical entry-level or administrative roles; and
  • building and maintaining connections within community via groups such as land councils is very important to gain partnership and buy-in that will support employment efforts.

The discussion and questions from the floor demonstrated keen interest across a number of sectors. Nareen and Troy can be contacted on nareen.young@uts.edu.au and troy@troyroderick.com.