The workplace and indigenous culture, why you need an Indigenous Employment Strategy

Aboriginal Communities in Australia

Within the workplace, there are many people from diverse backgrounds working alongside one another each and every day. Without a basic understanding of a person’s background or culture, it can be easy to misinterpret or miscommunicate people’s actions or intentions.  Being aware of workplace cultural diversity is vital, it’s also essential to realise that each person is unique. Here we outline some basic principles of indigenous culture that could be relevant to your workplace. It may give you a better understanding of the background of your indigenous co-workers and increase your awareness. However, these are only generalisations and its always best to check with each person before making any judgements or assumptions!

Communication: Non-Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Australians may communicate in different ways. It’s critical to be aware of this to create mutual respect and understanding and a good and supportive workplace. When communicating in the workplace, attending meetings, or interviewing Indigenous Australians, keep the following considerations in mind. When engaging with Indigenous Australians, nonverbal communication such as silence or eye contact may require a distinct understanding.

Agreement and Positive Responses: When posed questions or presented with challenges, Indigenous Australians frequently concur or react with “yes.” This is the result of many years of being reared in a government system that was hostile to Aboriginal Communities in Australia and taught them to accept what was being done regardless of their beliefs. Indigenous Australians were frequently kept out of trouble because of agreements. The effects of such training have been passed downthe generations, a phenomenon is known as trans-generational or inter-generational trauma. Be mindful of this and give Indigenous employees time to build trust and comfort, avoiding putting them in difficult or confronting circumstances that will result in a usual “yes” reaction.

Family Relationships: Traditional Indigenous familial ties are complex and unique from non-Indigenous associations. Indigenous Australians have extended families that can go beyond blood and marriage – a kinship system that determines where people belong in society and what rights and responsibilities they have. (Kinship systems vary among indigenous peoples.) Even though they are not biologically related, Indigenous Australians commonly refer to Elders or community leaders as Aunt or Uncle as a sign of respect. Indigenous Australians may refer to one another as brother or sister even if they are not blood kin.

Aboriginal Communities in Australia place a high value on family responsibility, and the consequences of this may have an influence on the workplace. An Indigenous Australian’s first focus is generally his or her family. Be aware that financial, health and general care for youngsters and elderly family members are frequently shared among extended family and community. This means that your employee will be given greater responsibilities outside of their nuclear family.

Due to the breadth and depth of obligation to family in Indigenous culture, there is the chance of frequent or inexplicable absences from work, or someone may consistently arrive late to work without explanation. Supporting or caring for family members may take precedence over going to work. When this occurs, it is critical to address the problem as soon as possible to avoid any possibility for deterioration in working relationships. Talk to the employee in a confidential and comfortable setting to uncover the concerns and establish how they might be assisted while fulfilling the workplace’s expectations and demands.

When referring to the presence or behaviour of a person, be appreciative of their dedication to their family and avoid using judgmental terminology such as the phrase “walkabout.” Ascertain that the employee is aware of both the available resources and the workplace expectations regarding absence notice and leave alternatives. Alternative leave choices, such as unpaid or bought leave, should be discussed with the employee. Contact the Indigenous Employment Coordinator or other relevant personnel in the Division of Human Resources to manage workplace absence.

Men’s and Women’s Business: Certain rituals and behaviours are carried out independently by men and women in Indigenous culture. Men’s and Women’s Business are terms used to describe these two types of businesses. These expected behaviours are subject to very rigorous controls and penalties under Aboriginal Law if the laws are breached. In specific communities, some of these rituals may still be practised. Keep in mind that there may be concerns in the workplace that Indigenous employees may prefer to discuss with someone of the same gender if they want to do so. This is not meant to be personal or disrespectful, but rather to show respect for a culture that has been passed down through the years.

Shame: Indigenous Communities in Australia frequently allude to an occurrence that has ‘shamed’ them or to the fact that they are too ‘shame’ to say or do something. This indicates that they were humiliated. Indigenous Australians are frequently timid, and if they are singled out or laughed at, they may feel offended. Even when they are singled out for positive reasons, they may feel ashamed since they do not want to look superior to others, particularly Indigenous people. It may be a good idea to pick out an Indigenous Australian employee in the workplace to congratulate them for their actions or get them to talk to other employees in a more official environment. Allow the individual to express their preferences on how this should be accomplished. Encourage them to allow it if they are too ashamed to be complimented, but ultimately respect their wishes.

An Indigenous Employment Plan may help your company stand out from the crowd and provide you with an advantage when it comes to attracting talent. Companies that include corporate social responsibility in their business models are connected with contemporary, forward-thinking principles. Many employees find a culturally inclusive workplace appealing, which improves retention rates and reduces recruiting expenses. Community Involvement Solution Australia works with your organisation to design, develop, and implement an IES that is based on critical facts and an understanding of the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. 

Eight Ways to Improve the Quality of Indigenous Employment

indigenous procurement policy

The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics study on Indigenous people in the workforce maintains a long-term pattern of low participation. According research findings, non-traditional recruitment agencies, additional education, and continued mentoring and support are critical to increases the participation figures.

While the employment gap narrowed between 1994 and 2008, it appears to have stalled since then. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, labour force participation rate for Indigenous Australians was 58%, compared to 77% for non-indigenous Australians.

Indigenous males were more likely than indigenous females to be in the labour force (65% vs. 52%), as were people in non-remote areas vs. those in remote areas (61% and 49% , respectively). The survey also discovered that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults over the age of 15 were much less likely to be employed than non-Indigenous persons.

Barriers to Indigenous people finding and sustaining employment are the cause of this employment gap. On the demand side, job location, labour market structural change, and employer prejudice all have an impact on Indigenous people’s chances of finding work. Health, education and training, work experience, and caring obligations limit participation on the supply side.

The ABS study is based on data from the 2014 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, which was recently released (NATSISS). This information explains a lot about the reasons behind the disparity in Indigenous labour participation.

The outcomes of education are a major determinant of employment and for Aboriginal Support. A degree-holding Indigenous male or female has an employment rate of 85 percent or 74 percent, respectively. This drops to 62% and 50% for those who have completed Year 12 only, and 43% and 32% for those who have completed Year 9 or less. Education does not determine employment on its own, although it is a significant component.

Current Indigenous employment policies emphasise education but are silent on discrimination. According to the NATSISS data, 33% of adult males and 37% of adult females reported receiving some type of unjust treatment in the preceding year (excluding those who responded that they did not know). It’s worth noting that these percentages are greater for employed Indigenous Australians (35% for men and 38% for women) than for unemployed Indigenous Australians (32% and 36%).

The second most common source of unjust treatment was during employment or when applying for work. It’s understandable that some Indigenous Australians might be hesitant to enter the labour market as a result of this, given that this and other studies reveals that discrimination and unjust treatment are a very real and highly destructive part of the labour market for Indigenous Australians.

There are also significant gender and age inequalities, according to the 2014 NATSISS. Indigenous males under 40 have much greater employment rates than females, just like the rest of the population.

The gender gap narrows significantly for individuals aged 40 and up, with an Indigenous male aged 50-54 being somewhat less likely to be employed than an Indigenous female of the same age. As a result, elder Indigenous males are at the greatest danger of losing their jobs.

According to research, there are a few policies that have the potential to assist Indigenous people in finding work. These were the following:

  • Increasing Indigenous Australians’ skill levels through formal education and training
  • Pre-employment testing and personalised training to get Indigenous job seekers work-ready
  • Recruitment and workplace rules that promote an Indigenous-friendly work environment and ensure that Indigenous people have an equal chance of landing jobs (for example, providing cultural leave)
  • Employer cross-cultural training

However, recruiting is insufficient. Overly high expectations, prejudice and racism, and a lack of acknowledgement of abilities and knowledge are just a few of the challenges to Indigenous workers’ retention in the public sector.

Some solutions to retain employees includes –

  • Ongoing mentoring and assistance along with indigenous procurement policy
  • Flexible work arrangements that help Indigenous employees to balance work, family, and community duties
  • Support for Indigenous employees’ families
  • Dealing with racism in the workplace through initiatives that address the larger workplace culture

In the end, the research reveals that what is going on in the larger labour market is the most important factor influencing Indigenous workforce participation and employment. The state of the economy is critical at the national level. Changes in government funding and industry structure have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous Australians at the local and community level.

However, we lack comprehensive research on which specific interventions will have a meaningful and cost-effective impact on Indigenous employment participation. We haven’t paid attention to the evidence of what has been proved to work (and what hasn’t) in other situations.

Not only has this issue gone unnoticed, but there has also been a lack of genuine self-determination in terms of what Indigenous peoples of Aboriginal and Torres Strait think about priorities and policy solutions.