Indigenous

Employment

Index

Artwork by Julianne Wade.

“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]

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Of Australia’s total workforce represented

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Represented employees or 5 per cent of Australia’s workforce

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Employers participated across Australia

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Individuals interviewed, of whom 71 per cent are Indigenous

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Indigenous voices

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.

Key Findings

“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.

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1

The mean Indigenous employment rate across surveyed employers is 2.2%, ranging from 0.17% to 10.9%.

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.

Aerial view of Little Lagoon, Shark Bay. Photo Credit: Merr Watson / Women Who Drone. Getty Images.

2

Employers are failing to retain Indigenous employees at the same rate as non-Indigenous employees, and often prioritise recruitment over employee retention and development.

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 employee]

3

76% of employers have Indigenous employment targets, of which only 67% report regularly on progress. Organisations that reported regularly on progress had more than double the share of Indigenous employees than those that did not.

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.

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Aboriginal ceremony in Alice Springs. Photo Credit: Grant Faint. Getty Images.

4

Indigenous employees are almost entirely absent from senior management and executive leadership levels.

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

[Indigenous employee]

5

Racism against Indigenous employees is common in the workplace, with over 50% of Indigenous interviewees reporting direct or indirect racism currently and throughout their careers.

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.

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Shark Bay coastline, Western Australia. Photo Credit: Abstract Aerial Art. Getty Images.

6

Eighty-one per cent of participating employers are involved in education-related programs or partnerships to attract and retain Indigenous employees.

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.

Call to action

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.

Employers

We are calling on executive leaders in all Australia based organisations to:

1

Set robust Indigenous employment targets and report regularly and transparently on progress towards them, to measure the effectiveness of your Indigenous employment strategy.

2

Work to retain current Indigenous employees, rather than focusing only on Indigenous recruitment.

3

Treat racism as a safety issue and acknowledge that work is still required to ensure that your workplace is culturally safe for Indigenous employees.

4

Follow this Index’s Employer Roadmap to take the next steps towards employment parity, tailored to your organisation.

Government

We are calling on the federal government to:

1

Regularly compile and publish data to comprehensively report on the state of Indigenous employment nationally.

2

Activate industry to help close the Indigenous employment gap through legislation.

3

Prioritise building an Indigenous Community-Controlled employment sector.

Investors

We are calling on all institutional investors to:

1

Understand the investment risk caused by poor company culture and racism, and the fact that more diverse companies are likely to outperform less diverse companies.

2

Evaluate current investee companies and consider Indigenous employment performance when making investments.

3

Engage with investee companies and set expectations.

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?

Participating Organisations

“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

Ampol

ANZ Bank

Atlassian

Australia Post

Australian Red Cross

Australian Unity Limited

Clayton Utz

Commonwealth Bank

Compass Group (Australia)

Domino’s Pizza Enterprises

Downer Group EDI

EY

Fortescue Metals Group

GHD

Goodstart Early Learning

Healius

Jones Lang LaSalle – JLL

KPMG Australia

Lendlease

Linfox Australia

Minter Ellison

NBN

Northcott

NSW Department of Communities and Justice

NSW South Eastern Sydney Local Health District

PwC Australia

Rio Tinto

Serco Australia

Silver Chain Group

South 32

St John of God Health Care

The Star Entertainment Group

Toll Group

Transport for NSW

University of Melbourne

WA Department of Health

WA Police Force

Wesfarmers

Woodside

Woolworths Group

Worley

The full findings, recommendations and methodology are available in the Indigenous Employment Index

Aerial viewpoint looking down on the dramatic patterns of the dry river beds and cracked land of outback Queensland, Australia. Photo Credit: Vicki Smith. Getty Images.