Closing the Work Gap in Corporate Australia

Media releases

In the lead up to National Close the Gap Day (Thursday 21 March), research released today shows new approaches to Indigenous community engagement by the corporate sector are urgently needed in order to close the gap in employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Key research findings:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Organisations that fail to make their intentions clear to Indigenous communities can do significant damage to their reputation, and it can take years to rebuild trust.
  • Organisations still have work to do to create inclusive working environments where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel safe to identify as such.
  • 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.

Diversity Council Australia partnered with Reconciliation Australia and Lend Lease on the research called, Closing the Work Gap in Corporate Australia. The research involved conducting interviews with Indigenous thought leaders, and engagement and employment practitioners.

Nareen Young, DCA’s CEO explained that the key findings from the research demonstrated that organisations are yet to fully capitalise on Indigenous talent.

“The unemployment rate for the Indigenous population is more than three times higher than that for the non-Indigenous population so we have a long way to go to close the work gap for Indigenous Australians. Our research gives valuable insight into what works and what doesn’t when it comes to engaging with Indigenous people and communities,” said Ms Young.

Leah Armstrong, Chief Executive of Reconciliation Australia said successful community engagement is a pathway to closing the gap.

“When done well, community engagement builds trust and understanding and lays the foundation for genuine and mutually beneficial partnerships in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are heard and respected. It is in this environment that sustainable opportunities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment, business and economic development can be realised,” said Ms Armstrong.

Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner said if we are to close the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the broader community it will take a sustained commitment from the entire nation.

“Corporate Australia has a critical role to play in this regard. Indigenous employment is a key social determinant of health. To address this, the report demonstrates corporate Australia must continue to invest in building relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, focus on effective engagement strategies and create culturally safe work environments,” said Commissioner Gooda.

About the research:

DCA interviewed 27 Indigenous thought leaders, and engagement and employment practitioners, representing both men and women and a diversity of industries, types of organisations (i.e. companies, Indigenous peak organisations and service providers and government), organisational levels (i.e. from CEO to project officer) and geographical locations.

For a full copy of the research, contact DCA.