Ways to support the Indigenous workforce

Employment creates opportunities for every Australian – and boosting Indigenous employment is a key component in Closing the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The financial security that comes with a stable place in the workforce doesn’t just lead to higher standards of living for individuals. It also improves physical and mental health and has positive flow-on effects on communities and the economy.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the overall employment rate for Indigenous Australians from 2018-2019 was 49%. For non-Indigenous Australians, it was 76%. Over the past decade, this gap has seen no significant change.

With a national goal to increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are employed to 62% by 2031, it’s incumbent upon the government, businesses, recruiters and communities to work together to exceed that target.

Starting with values and purpose

Striving for equal opportunity is our duty as recruiters – and that’s where every business should begin when it comes to Indigenous employment and Indigenous workforce solutions.

“It’s the Australian way to give everyone a fair go”, says Anthony MacShane, Director of MACFORCE Australia. He points out that promoting diversity is key to inclusive hiring that supports those who face discrimination – whether based on race, disability, age, criminal record, gender or sexual identity.

This is especially important when one considers that the Australian Human Rights Commission receives thousands of complaints every year from those who have suffered employment discrimination (with hundreds of those related to racial discrimination).

Anthony explains, “We’re in the business of understanding people, their unique skills and their preferred career paths.”  That means always putting the best candidate forward for any opportunity.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people specifically, the painting of Jandamarra in the MACFORCE Australia office reminds the team each day of the importance of Indigenous history and cultural understanding. The leadership at MACFORCE Australia also promotes active education about First Nations people through cultural bushwalks, documentaries and state museums.

Overcoming barriers to create opportunities

Social, cultural, economic and geographic factors all affect the ability of Indigenous Australians to participate in employment. For example, a higher proportion of Indigenous Australians live in rural communities. Data from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey indicated that 41% of those experiencing difficulty finding work identified the cause as “no jobs in their local area or line of work”.

With National Reconciliation Week at the start of June, there has recently been much acknowledgement of Indigenous issues in the workforce.

However, Anthony notes that ‘acknowledgement’ is no longer enough. “Real change requires more than just posting on social media for one month of the year.” While he agrees that Australia is on the right track, he believes that we need an ongoing national effort to make equal opportunity simply “a way of being”.

MACFORCE Australia’s own efforts include:

  1. Making every candidate feel heard and understood in their unique circumstances. That means listening and identifying ways to tailor support
  2. Working to offer cultural and community-focused services, plus financial support and counselling, rather than generic perks.
  3. Ensuring that candidates and employees receive this appropriate assistance throughout the recruitment process.

Implementing practical initiatives

As for projects that MACFORCE Australia is undertaking to create opportunities for the Indigenous workforce, Anthony says, “We’ve been working tirelessly to formalise our ex-offender program in a standalone company, Reboot Australia.”

It’s a devastating fact that almost 30% of Australia’s prison population is Indigenous, a cohort that accounts for less than 3% of Australia’s total population. An Indigenous person is 10 times more likely to be imprisoned than someone who is not Indigenous. While there are wider and systemic issues that need to be addressed in the long term, recruiters have a role to play in supporting Indigenous ex-offenders today.

Reintegration is a key focus for Reboot Australia. The company would be remiss not to tailor its program to support Indigenous people making this transition. Having built relationships with key community and cultural stakeholders across Western Australia, Reboot Australia ensures that every candidate receives the support they need to get back into the workforce – no matter where their employment is located.

MACFORCE Australia also has a strong connection with Wadjak Northside, a not-for-profit community hub in Balga, WA. The purpose of Wadjak is to find ways to improve opportunities and experiences for Indigenous people and their communities.

“We work with Wadjak to support candidates – connecting them with community, culturally rich experiences and personal and family support”, Anthony says. “Our lived-experience mentors also guide candidates through every stage of their employment journey.”

About MACFORCE

MACFORCE Australia is a recruitment company with heart, focused on changing the way people are employed in Australia, with a particular focus on the needs of Indigenous Australians. MACFORCE supports candidates to find suitable work placements, while supporting its clients to find suitable employees.

Looking for a career and have a unique cultural perspective? Connect with us at recruitment@macforce.com.au.

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