Media ReleaseGeneration One23 May 2022

Australian-first Indigenous Employment Index highlights desperate need to close the employment gap

An Australian-first new report offers an insight into Indigenous employment at some of Australia’s largest employers.

Artwork by Julianne Wade. Photo Credit: Julianne Wade.

Employers need to do more to attract, train, retain and promote Indigenous employees, according to a ground-breaking new report which lifts the lid on Indigenous employment practices at some of Australia’s biggest organisations.

The Australian-first Indigenous Employment Index launched today by Minderoo Foundation’s Generation One initiative surveyed 42 of the nation’s most significant employers, accounting for more than 700,000 workers.

The Indigenous Employment Index was commissioned and led by Minderoo Foundation’s Generation One initiative, which aims to end Indigenous employment disparity in one generation. The research was conducted by Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, and Murawin, an Indigenous owned consultancy, who co-authored the Index with Generation One.

Extensive surveys of each employer, plus more than 100 interviewees, inform the report’s findings, which include:

  • Participating employers still need to do more to create parity, with 2.2 per cent Indigenous employees on average, compared to the general population of 3.3 per cent.
  • Racism against Indigenous employees is common in the workplace, with over 50 per cent of Indigenous interviewees reporting direct or indirect racism currently and throughout their careers.
  • Indigenous representation at senior leadership levels was just 0.7 per cent among the employers that reported the relevant data.
  • Employers are failing to retain Indigenous employees at the same rate as non-Indigenous employees, and often prioritise recruitment over staff retention and development.

Minderoo Foundation Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest AO, and Co-Chair, Nicola Forrest AO, praised the 42 organisations involved in the Index for their courage to have their employment practices reviewed and scrutinised.

“We focus on Australia’s largest employers because only industry has the power to create the jobs and working environments necessary to drive change,” the Forrests said.

“This Index is a courageous first step by 42 of Australia’s largest employers to understand where we are now, and to collaboratively develop a set of solutions, underpinned by evidence, that accelerate Indigenous employment parity.”

Generation One Director, Shelley Cable, said while employers were making progress towards parity, there was still a long way to go before true parity is achieved and embedded as a standard way of doing business.

“Today, less than half of working age Indigenous Australians are employed — compared to three quarters of non-Indigenous Australians. At the current rate, it will take 200 years to close the gap,” Ms Cable said.

“Among its key recommendations, the Indigenous Employment Index finds that one-off measures to create Indigenous jobs must give way to a more comprehensive and systemic approach. Authentic commitments, tailored strategies with targets, and a broader definition of Indigenous employment success that includes retention, safety, progression, and partnerships are critical to better Indigenous employment outcomes,” she said.

One major barrier to closing the Indigenous employment gap is the blind spot that exists in Indigenous employment data, research, and evidence.

“At present, the only comprehensive measure of Indigenous employment is the Census, collected once every five years. Similarly, many employers do not have robust data or visibility of their Indigenous workforce and are therefore ill-equipped to drive Indigenous employment parity with confidence,” Ms Cable said.

This Index is the first research of its kind to measure and identify practices within large organisations that increase and improve Indigenous employment outcomes, and that elevates and centres Indigenous voices on the journey towards true employment parity. It provides a critical review of what employers are doing well, the concrete steps organisations can take to drive parity, and how to improve the experiences of Indigenous employees.

Ms Cable said the report served as a baseline assessment of Indigenous employment parity amongst 42 large employers.

“This report does not have all the answers,” she said. “The findings shared in this report are only part of the story, and help to inform employer, government and investor approaches needed to meet the needs of diverse Indigenous stakeholders.

“Subsequent Indices will be dedicated to expanding the breadth of this research and continuing to promote Indigenous employment outcomes and Indigenous ways of being, knowing and doing.

“While many large organisations are committed to the journey to true Indigenous employment parity, there remains a long way still to go,” Shelley Cable said.

The Index assessed employers, whose results are de-identified, on five domains: Commitment and Accountability, Workplace Culture and Inclusion, Attraction and Recruitment, Engagement and Development, Partnerships and Community.

Minderoo Foundation
by Minderoo Foundation

Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.

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