It’s time for Indigenous people to speak the truth about their workplace experience. And it’s time for workplaces to listen

Media releases

Embargoed to 12am, 17 November 2020

A new report, out today, from the Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research and Diversity Council Australia is speaking truth to Australian employers about the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.

The report, Gari Yala, which means ‘speak the truth’ in the Wiradjuri language, is based on a survey of over one thousand Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander workers across Australia and reveals some shocking realities about experiences of racism, the lack of cultural safety and identity strain experienced by Indigenous people across Australian workplaces.

Nareen Young, Industry Professor, Jumbunna Institute said that it was well past time that research about Indigenous people and work actually listened to Indigenous people.

“To improve the experience of Indigenous people at work, we need to stop asking non-Indigenous people about Indigenous people at work.

“This survey challenges that narrative for the first time on a truly national and rigorous basis, and provides evidence for employers about what they can do to create workplace environments where Indigenous people can thrive.”

Diversity Council Australia CEO, Lisa Annese said the report tells some powerful truths about exclusion and racism.

“This report reveals that Indigenous employees continue to experience significant workplace racism and exclusion and that racism is impacting wellbeing and job satisfaction.

“This racism manifested in a number of ways, including people being treated unfairly because of their Indigenous background, hearing racial slurs and receiving comments about the way they look or ‘should’ look as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.”

The report also provides ten truths for organisations to improve workplace inclusion for Indigenous staff.

“This research sets out a framework of actions for organisations to improve inclusion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff,” said Lisa.

“These actions are based in evidence and designed for workplaces that are ready to listen to Indigenous staff, and willing to act on what they tell them.”

This research was sponsored by NAB and Coles.

NAB Group Executive, People and Culture, Susan Ferrier said that while organisations such as NAB have made progress, there is still more work to be done, with more than a quarter of those surveyed saying they didn’t feel safe identifying as Indigenous within their workplace.

“We owe it to our Indigenous colleagues to give them the support they need to be strong and proud voices, especially while at work. As an employer, we need to be doing absolutely everything to support that.”

Coles CEO, Steven Cain, said, “As Australia’s largest private employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we understand the importance of working better together and creating safe, welcoming and inclusive work environments.”

 

Key findings:

This research drew on the insights and experiences of 1,033 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander workers. It found:

  • 28% work of our respondents work in culturally unsafe workplaces.

Indigenous employees face significant workplace racism and exclusion:

  • 38% reported being treated unfairly because of their Indigenous background sometimes, often or all the time
  • 44% reported hearing racial slurs sometimes, often or all the time
  • 59% reported experiencing appearance racism – receiving comments about the way they look or ‘should’ look as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.

Racism impacts wellbeing and job satisfaction – Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander workers who experienced unfair racist treatment were:

  • 2.5 times less likely to always be satisfied with their job, compared to those who rarely or never experienced unfair racist treatment
  • 3 times less likely to always recommend their workplace to other Indigenous people
  • 2 times as likely to be looking for a new employer in the next year.

Current workplace supports are ineffective:

  • Only 1 in 3 had the workplace support required when they experienced racism
  • Only 1 in 5 worked in organisations with both a racism complaint procedure and anti-discrimination compliance training that included reference to Indigenous discrimination and harassment.

Download the research.

Join the conversation

* Required information