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How companies can do their part to be more inclusive of Aboriginal people

By Jack Campbell | |6 minute read
How companies can do their part to be more inclusive of Aboriginal people

Leroy Wilkinson-Maher, managing director of Aboriginal consultancy Dhiira, spoke with The HR Leader about how companies can do their part to support Aboriginal employees.

Mr Wilkinson-Maher explained: “Self-education's best. So, be critical in accessing materials online. Make sure that you do your fair share of accessing what materials and resources are available, and there's a tonne of it on the internet now.”

“If we look at the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) platform, and if your organisation is in any way interested in getting involved in Aboriginal affairs or is interested in the idea of reconciliation, then the RAP model is a really good place to start, because it helps you figure out, through a really intentionally phased approach, what your contribution should look like and can be,” he said.

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The 2021 RAP Impact Report was released on 9 June 2022. The key findings published on Reconciliation Australia were:

  • Close to 4 million people now either work or study in a RAP organisation.
  • Over $2 billion worth of goods and services spent with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned businesses.
  • Up to 88 per cent of employees in Stretch and Elevate organisations believe their organisation has a clear public stance against racism.
  • About 47 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees in Stretch and Elevate organisations believe their workplace is welcoming and respectful for new First Nations employees.

Another potential resource that HR Leader found is the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy 2020–2024 which was released by the Australian Public Service Commission on 3 July 2020, and aims to ‘close the gap’ in the Commonwealth Public Sector. The key focus areas of the strategy as published on the government’s website are:

  • Cultural Integrity – improving and embedding the understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in the workplace to support the development of culturally safe workspaces and services, and creating a more inclusive Commonwealth Public Sector.
  • Career Pathways – diversify and strengthen the pathways into and across the Commonwealth Public Sector.
  • Career Development and Advancement – individual career development and advancement plans supported by targeted development initiatives and advancement opportunities.

Getting these areas of diversity, equity and inclusion right will help Aboriginal people feel supported in the workplace.

And the Fair Work Ombudsman has guidelines for work relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Cultural considerations posted on the Fair Work website include:

  • The importance of family and kinship ties
  • Cultural obligations
  • Significant dates and cultural events
  • The need for time away from work for issues such as Sorry Business.

Cultural days employers need to be aware of:

  • NAIDOC Week
  • Sorry Day
  • National Reconciliation Week
  • Local and regional events

Speaking with The HR Leader on the recent podcast about being inclusive, Mr Wilkinson-Maher said: “The HR component of it really specifically is about you creating the terms and conditions of employment, and fluid and flexible policy that can accommodate the unique needs of people.”

“I’ve done a tonne of HR evaluations and complaint evaluations, and complaint supports and mediation. And the one thing I find is that whenever we’ve got cultural inclusions, and we’re talking about this from the Aboriginal perspective, but this can be religious inclusion, it can be something that’s unique to any individual, that policy doesn’t include or have provisions for, your HR operators are going to go: ‘We did not find grounds for a breach’,” said Mr Wilkinson-Maher.

He continued: “How does it feel for that individual that’s sitting there in absolute shambles because the HR policy did not consider them as an individual?”


The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full conversation with Leroy Wilkinson-Maher is below.

 

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Culture

Your organization's culture determines its personality and character. The combination of your formal and informal procedures, attitudes, and beliefs results in the experience that both your workers and consumers have. Company culture is fundamentally the way things are done at work.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.