Work­force in wait­ing

Indige­nous work­ers have a valu­able place in the Aus­tralian work­place. Cara Jenkin re­ports

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CUL­TURAL di­vides are keep­ing work­ers out of jobs and em­ploy­ers short of staff.

Indige­nous peo­ple are one of the na­tion’s most un­der­used groups of the work­force.

Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics fig­ures show the pro­por­tion of that sec­tor’s pop­u­la­tion that is un­em­ployed is more than three times the na­tional av­er­age.

Al­most one in five indige­nous Aus­tralians, or 18.1 per cent, is un­em­ployed com­pared with the na­tional av­er­age of one in 20, or 5.1 per cent. The indige­nous un­em­ploy­ment fig­ure has in­creased from a low of 13.9 per cent in 2007.

Low ed­u­ca­tion at­tain­ment lev­els by indige­nous peo­ple is blamed as much as a lack of cul­tural un­der­stand­ing by em­ploy­ers for work­ers not to be hired or re­tained in work.

Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity Col­lege of Arts and So­cial Sci­ences As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Dr Boyd Hunter says more indige­nous work­ers need to stay in school and gain an ed­u­ca­tion or take part in train­ing pro­grams to be more em­ploy­able. Em­ploy­ers also need to di­vert more re­sources to train­ing staff – and cre­ate a more friendly en­vi­ron­ment for indige­nous work­ers.

‘‘ It would be good for em­ploy­ers to di­vert some time to look more at indige­nous work­ers,’’ he says.

‘‘ But we can’t ex­pect them to do ev­ery­thing.’’

Min­ing has been hailed as an in­dus­try in which in­di­gen- ous peo­ple can ac­cess em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties – and par­tic­u­larly for those liv­ing in re­mote ar­eas.

‘‘ The min­ing sec­tor is do­ing a lot bet­ter than it did . . . but only be­cause it was do­ing so poorly in the late ’ 90s,’’ Hunter says. ‘‘ That’s a heart­en­ing thing. We want lo­cals to work (in mines).

‘‘ But it will never be a ma­jor em­ployer (of indige­nous peo­ple. Min­ing com­pa­nies) need high-skilled work­ers.’’

Hunter says op­por­tu­ni­ties need to be sought for and of­fered by ev­ery sec­tor but high­lights the ser­vice sec­tor in par­tic­u­lar as an area for job op­por­tu­ni­ties, as it is tipped to be a growth in­dus­try.

‘‘ We want to ed­u­cate indige­nous peo­ple,’’ he says.

‘‘ There’s a lot of firms that have com­mit­ted to . . . get­ting indige­nous em­ploy­ees and find­ing jobs for indige­nous peo­ple. What hap­pens in the


Prac­tice: Take the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided at cul­tural aware­ness train­ing and put it into prac­tice. Al­low flex­i­bil­ity in ros­ters to cater for when staff need time off and con­sider the ben­e­fits that cul­tural di­ver­sity brings to a role when look­ing to pro­mote staff.

Al­lo­cate: Give all work­ers the time to take part in train­ing, even if it means del­e­gat­ing their work­load for the day to other staff. Give an indige­nous worker a work­place men­tor to help them through any daily or long-term is­sues that may arise.

Re­view: En­sure the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s poli­cies are be­ing met by hold­ing reg­u­lar re­views of the progress your own depart­ment is mak­ing to­wards achiev­ing the set tar­gets. rest of so­ci­ety is it’s up to the in­di­vid­ual (to get train­ing) and there are in­cen­tives for cer­tainly un­em­ployed peo­ple to get (train­ing) op­por­tu­ni­ties.’’

Henry But­ton, 34, (pic­tured on cover) is help­ing to train indige­nous work­ers as life­guards in his po­si­tion as aquatic op­er­a­tions team leader at the Na­tional Cen­tre of Indige­nous Ex­cel­lence – a role in which he also is carv­ing out a ca­reer path.

‘‘ I un­der­stand that the NCIE prob­a­bly would like to see me as a cen­tre man­ager in the fu­ture,’’ he says. The min­ing, con­struc­tion, re­tail, hos­pi­tal­ity, tourism, man­u­fac­tur­ing and com­mu­nity ser­vices are key growth in­dus­tries for indige­nous work­ers in South Australia. Depart­ment of Fur­ther Ed­u­ca­tion, Em­ploy­ment, Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy chief ex­ec­u­tive Ray­mond Gar­rand says an indige­nous em­ploy­ment clus­ter has been es­tab­lished in each of the in­dus­tries be­cause of its pro­jected growth to help get more indige­nous work­ers to meet the de­mand for staff.

This aims to cre­ate 520 jobs and 250 train­ing places each year for indige­nous peo­ple.

Gar­rand agrees that it will take indige­nous peo­ple com­plet­ing train­ing – as well as sup­port from em­ploy­ers – to pro­vide the op­por­tu­ni­ties and help them tran­si­tion in jobs for the gap to close.

‘‘ We’ve tried to look at ar­eas where there are sig­nif­i­cant growth op­por­tu­ni­ties,’’ Gar­rand says. ‘‘ Each clus­ter is headed by an in­dus­try leader – and has set their own tar­get to pro­vide train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

‘‘ Part of it is to do train­ing for real jobs.’’

The train­ing in­cludes work place­ments with em­ploy­ers to help pro­vide path­ways to em­ploy­ment once the course has been com­pleted.

The pro­grams are equip­ping trainees with at least a Certificate I on com­ple­tion.

Men­tor­ing, mean­while, helps sup­port work­ers in the tran­si­tion from un­em­ploy­ment to work.

‘‘ All the min­ing com­pa­nies have an Abo­rig­i­nal Em­ploy­ment Strat­egy and all are ac­tively en­gaged in terms of ac­tual em­ploy­ment,’’ Gar­rand ex­plains. ‘‘ But there are sig­nif­i­cant em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in other sec­tors as well . . . re­tail­ers are strongly com­mit­ted to Abo­rig­i­nal em­ploy­ment.’’ The hos­pi­tal­ity, aged­care and man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tors also are pro­vid­ing train­ing and job op­por­tu­ni­ties.


Plan: A Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Ac­tion Plan is a busi­ness plan that doc­u­ments what an or­gan­i­sa­tion is do­ing to fur­ther rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in their work­place.

Op­por­tu­nity: It may com­mit an or­gan­i­sa­tion to achiev­ing indige­nous em­ploy­ment tar­gets, pro­vid­ing on-the-job train­ing and ca­reer de­vel­op­ment pro­grams or schol­ar­ships for indige­nous work­ers or stu­dents.

Re­spect: Plans can in­clude pro­vid­ing cul­tural aware­ness train­ing for staff, par­tic­i­pat­ing in cul­tural events and es­tab­lish­ing pro­to­cols for Ac­knowl­edge­ment of Coun­try.

Re­la­tion­ships: Have on­go­ing con­sul­ta­tion and part­ner­ship with indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, or­gan­i­sa­tions and peo­ple on com­pany and com­mu­nity projects.

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