Research (Gari Yala – Speak the Truth: Centreing the experiences of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians at work) 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.
Gari Yala, which means ‘speak the truth’ in the Wiradjuri language, is based on a survey 1,033 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.
The 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 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.
To hear some of the anonymous survey responses read aloud, watch the video below.
This research drew on the insights and experiences of 1,033 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander workers. It found:
Sharing your Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background at work is vitally important
- 78% said it was important for them to identify as Indigenous within their workplace
But it can be complicated
- 63% experience high identity strain – the strain Indigenous employees feel when they themselves, or others, view their identity as not meeting the norms or expectations of the dominant culture in the workplace
- 39% carry the burden of high cultural load, which comes in the form of extra work demands and the expectation to educate others
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.
About the artwork
Kirsten Gray is a Yuwalaraay/Muruwari woman living on Dharawal country and raising two small children. Her artworks are a contemporary and vibrant reflection of her passion for her Aboriginal culture.
‘Speaking truth’ explores the nature and extent of the contributions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this land for millennia. Long before the birth of the Australian nation, our people were already making significant contributions to their families and communities.
It was the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people upon the arrival of the British, which helped transform our country into what it is today. Much of this labour was often unpaid, unrecognised and undertaken in discriminatory and harsh conditions. Nonetheless, it is these ongoing contributions of our people which keep each other, our communities and this country, strong.
Want to use our research?
Where you wish to refer to our research, it must be correctly attributed to the Jumbunna Insitute and DCA.
- Formal attribution is required where references to research material are in a written format.
- Citing the Jumbunna Institute and DCA as a source will suffice where the reference is made in a verbal format.
Suggested citation: Diversity Council Australia/Jumbunna Institute (Brown, C., DAlmada-Remedios, R., Gilbert, J. OLeary, J. and Young, N.) Gari Yala (Speak the Truth): Centreing the Work Experiences of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians, Sydney, Diversity Council Australia/Jumbunna Institute, 2020.
Watch the video below to hear some of the anonymous survey responses read aloud.