01 June 2016

Investing in Indigenous employers

Author :

Indigenous Australians remain underrepresented in today’s workforce, despite several efforts by the government. It’s 2016 and we still haven’t done better. Why?

Both Canada and New Zealand are miles ahead of us when it comes to employing Indigenous people and supporting them in the workforce. Indigenous enterprise and employment is part of the culture, and it’s in a good way. It’s thriving.

It’s not thriving in Australia.


According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Indigenous Australians have much lower employment rates than other Australians. In 2011, Indigenous Australians aged 15-64 were less likely to be participating in the labour force compared to non-Indigenous Australians (55.9% compared to 76.4%).


Contributing factors to the low employment rate include lower levels of education and training, poorer health, living in areas with fewer labour market opportunities and lower level of job retention, as well as issues relating to native title.

Indigenous entrepreneurship is vital to growing and sustaining Australia’s Indigenous economy. Recent research has also found that Indigenous employers are more likely to hire other Indigenous Australians.

Employers could, and should, do a lot more to include and engage Indigenous Australians and understand the value of a diverse workplace.

The first issue is that employers simply don’t know enough about Australia’s Aboriginal culture, nor do they show respect or understanding for social and emotional issues. Employers need to be willing to learn and create awareness in the workplace, starting with their human resources departments.

Businesses can attract more Indigenous people by simplifying the application process and by trying some innovative recruitment strategies.

Employers and human resource managers would also benefit from learning more about cultural behaviours. For example, in Indigenous culture it’s considered rude to look someone in the eyes. Not looking an interviewer in the eyes during a job interview would obviously put any applicant at disadvantage, but by having an understanding for other cultures; employers can increase and support their Indigenous workforce.

But it’s not just about hiring Indigenous Australians, it’s also about retaining them. Making sure Indigenous Australians receive the support they need is crucial. One successful strategy is implementing mentorships where the mentor can act as a role model and provide support and guidance.

Australians employers have a long way to go to fully engage and invest in Indigenous employers, but every little step counts. So why not take that first step now?

Mimmie grew up in Sweden and first came to Australia as a backpacker after high school. After travelling around the country for two years she returned to Europe and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in London. But the longing for Australia and the sun became too strong. After having worked for some time in the media industry, Mimmie decided to make a change and swap the news for conferences. She now gets to do what she loves the most, meeting new people and keep learning about cultures and issues while producing conferences on current topics.

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