Business gets behind the national summit for Indigenous people working in corporate Australia

Media releases

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples working in corporate Australia attended the inaugural National Indigenous Corporate Network (NICN) National Summit yesterday, held at Redfern in Sydney. The summit explored the challenges and opportunities that Indigenous people face in the workplace, and found while there are many good news stories, more progress is needed to deliver sustainable careers.

Key takeaways from the summit included:

  • Companies need to have Reconciliation Action Plans or strategies that focus on retention of Indigenous employees, beyond just initial job placement.
  • Targets for Indigenous employment are important, to drive employment outcomes and also because they can have flow on effects for suppliers and clients.
  • It’s essential for companies to respect Indigenous culture and values and be open to learning.
  • Corporates that offer traineeships should be congratulated but it’s important that there is a permanent job offered at the end.
  • Indigenous people should strive for the career they want, set their sights high and continue to break down barriers that stereotype.

The NICN was established by Diversity Council Australia and Reconciliation Australia and is designed as a forum for Indigenous people in the corporate sector to come together and discuss challenges and opportunities in the workplace, and to build role models and mentors for Indigenous people in the sector.

The summit, sponsored by Telstra, included panel discussions on Indigenous success stories in the corporate world and diversity in the workplace with participants from Telstra, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Ernst & Young, PwC, AFL (NSW), Essential Energy, National Australia Bank and CareerTrackers

Nareen Young, DCA’s CEO said the success of the inaugural summit underlines how more Indigenous people are employed in large private sector organisations and mentoring and career development are key.

“DCA research has found that retention of Indigenous employees can be improved by mentoring schemes and providing career development and progression. There is also a real need to promote the wide range of career options available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. There is a lot of talent out there so it’s important to think beyond entry level roles,” said Nareen.

In his keynote address to the summit, Michael Rose, CEO of Allens and Chair of the Indigenous Engagement Task Force of the Business of Council Australia spoke about the importance of Indigenous employment in the corporate sector.

“The member companies of the BCA have generated more than 6,000 jobs for Indigenous employees and trainees in the last five years. That is a good start but there is a need, and an opportunity, to do more,” said Michael.

This is echoed by the key findings of DCA’s Closing the Work Gap in Corporate Australia released earlier this year that showed new approaches to Indigenous community engagement by the corporate sector are needed in order to close the gap in employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

  • Organisations need to take into account the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Too many key Indigenous engagement positions in the corporate sector are still being filled by non-Indigenous people.
  • Insufficient attention has been given to measuring the progress of engagement strategies and picking the right metrics to do this, for example sustainable careers versus short term appointments, and measures of respect.
  • Organisations still have work to do to create inclusive working environments where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel safe to identify as such.
  • Engagement with Indigenous communities doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time to build successful relationships and needs to be treated seriously and be given appropriate resources. Too often it is short term and project driven.

Award-winning journalist Stan Grant who also spoke at the summit said it is imperative that Indigenous people continue to break down the barriers in mainstream Australia.

“For too long we have been sidelined and marginalised and limited by how others seek to define us. I want to see the day when the treasurer of Australia is an Indigenous person, when the chief justice of the high court is Indigenous, when we run major companies or stand on the stage accepting an academy award for playing a role that is not an 'Indigenous defined' role.

“In my career I have sought to challenge others preconceptions. I wanted to be a foreign correspondent to report from around the world and thankfully I have achieved that. We don't need favours and now it is up to us to kick open the doors,” said Stan.