National survey to measure Indigenous employment experiences for the first time

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday September 24, 2019

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A new survey hopes to take an in-depth look at the employment experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The University of Technology, Sydney’s Jumbunna Institute and the Diversity Council Australia (DCA) have joined forces to create Gari Yala — which means “speak the truth” in Wiradjuri — a biennial national survey on the first-hand occupational experiences of Indigenous people. 

The survey will address key areas of an individual’s employment journey, including attraction, recruitment and selection, onboarding, recognition and reward, workplace environment, and offboarding. It hopes to highlight the unique contributions and aspirations of Indigenous people in the workforce that are not covered in mere statistics and policy frameworks.

DCA CEO Lisa Annese said the survey would help employers — including the Australian Public Service — build a more inclusive and respectful workplace, which provides “safe, welcoming and culturally competent environments for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people to work in”. 

She told The Mandarin that while the APS has “pretty significant targets” in regards to the employment of Indigenous people, the survey could provide deeper insight. While it’s one thing to have a couple of demographic questions at the end of an engagement survey, looking at the actual lived experiences of individuals reveals so much more.

“I think it’s really important. All the work that has been done in this area has never looked at the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” she said.

“No one has ever asked the question of — what has been the workplace experience of this group?”

She said the survey, which will commence early next year, would reflect a “cross section of industries”.

“The idea, really, is to provide a labour market overview, but every industry will be able to read their own experiences into it,” she added.

According to the Australian Public Service Commission, Indigenous representation as a percentage of all APS employees across agencies was at 4.3% in 2018.

READ MORE: APS equality council prioritises Aboriginal employment strategy

UTS Industry Professor Nareen Young said Gari Yala would provide an opportunity to shift the narratives about employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

“Much is written about Indigenous employment from a non-Indigenous perspective but it is time for Indigenous people to tell their own stories about the workplace and to showcase their own needs and talents,” she said.  

“Indigenous Australians represent an important and often undervalued part of the workforce. Too often the emphasis is on gap closing or getting Indigenous people into work, but this survey will tell us more about their lived experiences, broadening our knowledge regarding issues such as career progression, discrimination and pay, just to name a few.”

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