The Australian Public Service Commission is hoping to lead a shift away from a “bums on seats” approach to Indigenous employment.
It’s rolling out a new Indigenous employment service for both Australian Public Service and non-APS agencies.
This will form part of its plan to improve engagement and leave behind an approach referred to by some as a “tick the box” mentality to recruiting Indigenous people.
Aboriginal public servants have been critical of a tendency in the public sector across Australia to focus on filling recruitment quotas without giving the purpose of the policy deep consideration. One speaker at an event The Mandarin attended summed the problem up: “Bums on seats — have they thought beyond that to ‘once we’ve got them, what do they want to do? Why are they going to come and work for us? … who are we benefiting: the Aboriginal people who come and work for us, or ourselves because we can say we’ve got blackfellas working for us?'”
A research project commissioned by the APSC to explain high rates of attrition among Indigenous public servants found they often failed to see the point of the employment strategy, and became disillusioned with what they could achieve in the APS:
“For interviewees, a significant negative implication involved a sense that any potential to make a difference through their participation in the APS – notably in terms of advancing the interests of Aboriginal people and their communities – was quite delimited or postponed.”
The APSC says its current Indigenous employment strategy “turns up the volume on retention and advancement”, adding that it would “take a partnership approach to innovate and leverage the expertise and experience across the APS.”
The new program activities will include:
- an Indigenous Employment Advisory Service, drawing on expertise across the APS, with one-on-one advice provided to agencies on Indigenous employment strategies.
- employee engagement.
- mobility, secondment and mentoring services across agencies.
- targeted return activities for ex-APS employees, including an Indigenous alumni network to maintain contact with potential rehires.
- pilot career model for APS 6-EL 2 to increase career growth and advancement.