Services Australia has been recognised for its sustained efforts to create an inclusive workplace, but general manager Jen Rufati says there is more work to be done.
The agency was recently awarded ‘Gold’ tier status at the Australian LGBTQ Inclusion Awards in Sydney, recognising it as an inclusive employer.
The awards are based on the results of the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) and the Health and Wellbeing Equality Index (HWEI) — evidence-based benchmarking tools that annually assess workplaces’ LGBTQ inclusion initiatives.
Services Australia sat at ‘Bronze’ status for four years before finally reaching ‘Gold’ in 2021. While the agency is immensely proud of this achievement, it can’t afford to rest on its laurels, says Rufati, who has been the agency’s LGBTQ+ ally for about three and a half years.
“Every year the benchmark keeps rising,” she says.
“So we’re constantly looking to evolve what we do, how we get better, and learn from other agencies, departments, and the private sector, to make sure we continue to improve.”
The agency’s diversity and inclusion team is currently looking at domestic violence within LGBTI+ relationships, and how Services Australia’s ‘strong social worker network’ can support members of the community who are experiencing domestic violence.
Around 2% of Services Australia’s staff identify as LGBTI+. To ensure employees feel connected, included, and able to ‘bring their whole self to work’, the agency has established a ‘rainbow round table’ and a ‘rainbow connection’ through its internal social media platforms.
Reflecting the diversity of the Australian public within government agencies is important, Rufati says, as it allows them to better serve the Australian community and attracts appropriate talent to the workforce.
“Part of the two main areas where we made the most improvement this year — which tipped us up to the Gold status — was we introduced transgender and gender diversity inclusion in our recruitment processes. We also introduced better governance around our rainbow connections and rainbow round table,” she says.
“And part of that is we published a lot of support material and updated our website to include and address concerns that transgender or gender diverse applicants may have when applying for roles.
“It’s letting them know that they’ll be supported in the workplace if they choose to, for example, wear business clothes that express their gender identity. They’re supported if they’re undertaking gender affirmation activities.”
Rufati notes that some staff have told her they have never felt so included in a workplace as they do at Services Australia. While inclusion supports employee wellbeing, it also boosts engagement.
“When we recently undertook a workplace inclusion survey that Pride in Diversity hosted, we had around 4500 responses. Of those, 84% of staff support the work we do for inclusion around LGBTI, 81% agree that the work has a positive influence on our organisational culture, 91% understand why we focus on this aspect of inclusion, and 90% feel safe and included in their immediate team. So when you actually bring all that together, it makes for a really engaged and included workforce,” she says.
Rufati and her team are extremely proud to have received ‘Gold’ at the LGBTQ Inclusion Awards, particularly considering the agency employs more than 30,000 staff across the country.
“[The diversity team] has done an amazing job, and when one of them had tears in her eyes, it really made me tear up because the work that we’ve done and the commitment that we put into this, it’s an incredible achievement,” she says.
“The award recognises the sustained effort that we’ve put into creating an inclusive workforce and workplace where everybody feels safe. And that’s been achieved because of the commitment to respecting and valuing everyone each and every day. And I think the key thing for me is having a workplace where people can feel safe, where we ensure that it’s LGBTI friendly is so important.”