How-to guide: reaching indigenous employment targets

By Harley Dennett

October 1, 2015

Few jurisdictions in Australia comes close to reaching their target employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but a new implementation guide from the Australian Public Service Commission may help.

The guide was designed for the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy, which has a target of only 3% by 2018 — for comparison, the NSW Department of Justice last week announced a 6% target by 2017. Nonetheless, the guide covers techniques that could apply to any public sector organisation trying to reach indigenous employment targets, from attracting applicants and recruitment pathways through to mentoring and talent management to foster a workplace where indigenous Australians can reach the most senior ranks.

The guide draws on the successful practices in federal APS departments and agencies, such as the Department of Defence’s Specialist Recruiting Team—Indigenous, and the many reconciliation actions plans adopted in an increasing number of bodies.

For example, the Department of Social Services reached its own target of 4% by 2016 a year early by circulating vacancies through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff networks and promotion the use of “identified” positions.

DSS secretary Finn Pratt said the target was high priority for the department when it announced its own target and strategy, and it was important to not just recruit but also support those recruits to establish their careers once inside.

Mentoring, professional coaching to “no less than 10% of staff” each year, and ensuring there indigenous staff are part of the mix in development programs were used to retain and encourage meaningful careers in DSS, “with success measured by the percentage change in number of staff completing development programmes”. This is supported by inclusive cultural efforts such as the ATSI staff portal and a manager’s toolkit.

DDS’ senior executives have an ongoing role too, such as participating in the department’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Staff National Committee bi-monthly meetings. Their SES performance plans include mandatory deliverables to increase and improve employment outcomes for indigenous staff.

The APSC’s guide also suggests other models in use, such as a champions network, employee networks, and cultural appreciation programs. GovDex site exists for more information from the APSC, with access available on request via


About the author
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
The Mandarin Premium

Canberra’s changed

Stay on top for only $5 a week


Get Premium Today