“I love my job. I love everything I do even that gives me grey hair and keeps me up at night. I wouldn’t change what I do. It gives me tears. It gives me frustration. It fills me with joy. It fills me with anger, fills me with pride, fills me with passion. Everything that I could ever want in a job.” [Indigenous employee]
Of Australia’s total workforce represented
Represented employees or 5 per cent of Australia’s workforce
Employers participated across Australia
Individuals interviewed, of whom 71 per cent are Indigenous
Today, Indigenous Australians remain vastly under-represented or excluded from the workforce. As of 2018, less than half (49.1 per cent) of working age Indigenous Australians were in some form of employment, compared to 75.9 per cent for non-Indigenous Australians. Worryingly, that gap only closed by 1.3 per cent during the decade to 2018. Indigenous employment parity will only be achieved when Indigenous employees are present in the workforce in the same proportion as they are in the national population, at approximately 3.3 per cent. But ‘true’ parity extends beyond a single representation measure.
The Indigenous Employment Index 2022 is the first comprehensive snapshot of Indigenous workplace representation, practices, and employee experiences ever to be carried out in Australia. Together, the participating organisations employ more than 700,000 Australians; about five per cent of the total Australian workforce, and 17,412 Indigenous Australians; around six per cent of the Indigenous workforce.
This research finds that one-off measures to create Indigenous employment must give way to a more comprehensive and systemic approach. Authentic commitments, tailored strategies with targets, and a broader definition of Indigenous employment success are critical to better Indigenous employment outcomes. There is genuine commitment from participating organisations to Indigenous employment, and progress is being made, as recognised by many interview participants. There is still much work to be done, however, to improve the attraction, retention, and progression of Indigenous employees, while creating culturally safe and inclusive environments where all employees can thrive.
“Being in large organisations, it is very tough being an Aboriginal person. And you just want that support from Aboriginal people. You need to, you know, have that yarn.” [Indigenous employee]
We find that just 5% of participating employers fall into the highest performing category in terms of Indigenous employment practices and outcomes, whereas almost a third (28%) fall into the lowest performing group, and half (55%) fall into the “Growth” category.
Considering a parity target of 3.3 per cent, this is promising progress. However, the Indigenous Employment Index reveals almost all employers have substantial room to improve on their Indigenous employment practices and outcomes. Only two of the 42 employers fell into the highest performing category in this Index, with almost a third in the lowest performing category.
Only half of participating employers collect Indigenous retention data, of which the majority (62 per cent) reported lower retention of Indigenous employees compared to the rest of their workforce. In addition, over a third of the 42 participating employers do not provide any Indigenous-specific development opportunities.
if we develop our own from the ground up, they’re more likely to stay
Indigenous employment targets are critical in driving employment outcomes, and must be complemented by a comprehensive strategy that addresses the full employee lifecycle. Reporting progress towards targets is associated with statistically significant better outcomes, demonstrating that simply having a plan or a target is not enough.
Indigenous representation at senior leadership levels was just 0.7 per cent among 31 employers that reported the relevant data. Indigenous senior leadership is critical to elevating Indigenous voices and perspectives and supporting Indigenous employees. Organisations with reconciliation strategies or plans led by Indigenous leaders had more than double the share of Indigenous employees.
when you don’t see yourself in your leaders, it’s hard, it’s a battle
Consistent with findings from other research, many Indigenous employees feel culturally unsafe at work, meaning they cannot practice their cultural identity without discrimination, ridicule or denunciation. Employers have low levels of understanding of racism, and how to appropriately respond to it.
Pathway programs such as these can help Indigenous Australians transition from education or training into employment, and also help tailor employee skills and experience to meet organisational needs. Many Indigenous employees believe the best way to build an Indigenous workforce is by starting engagement in schools.
“I was just a kid from the scrub and now I’m working for a global company. It blows my mind a bit and it really put me on a good career path.” [Indigenous employee]
We are calling for immediate action from employers, governments and investors to help end Indigenous employment disparity.
We are calling on executive leaders in all Australia based organisations to:
We are calling on the federal government to:
We are calling on all institutional investors to:
Indigenous employment parity is achievable in our generation but requires approximately 300,000 more Indigenous Australians to enter paid work by 2040.
This is our responsibility, and our opportunity to take.
What impact will your organisation make?
“The cultural differences make it a lot more work. And the education system around amalgamating the two cultures together… It’s the openness and the mindset of people that needs to be enhanced to better understand and work together.” [Indigenous employee]
42 Australian organisations contributed to the Indigenous Employment Index, with all organisations completing a detailed survey.
Advanced Personnel Management
Australian Red Cross
Australian Unity Limited
Compass Group (Australia)
Domino’s Pizza Enterprises
Downer Group EDI
Fortescue Metals Group
Goodstart Early Learning
Jones Lang LaSalle – JLL
NSW Department of Communities and Justice
NSW South Eastern Sydney Local Health District
Silver Chain Group
St John of God Health Care
The Star Entertainment Group
Transport for NSW
University of Melbourne
WA Department of Health
WA Police Force