Gari Yala (Speak the Truth): Centreing the experiences of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians at work

Gari Yala (Speak the Truth)

New research 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.


Key findings:

To hear some of the anonymous survey responses read aloud, watch the video.

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. But it can be complicated.

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:

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

Speaking truth' explores the nature and extent of the contributions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this land for millennia.

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.

Download the research

Download the Report Infographic or Download the Racism Infographic

Download the Synopsis Report

DCA Members can also log in below to access the Full Research report. 

Want to use our research?

Materials contained in this document are © Copyright of DCA Ltd, 2020. If you wish to use any content contained in this report, please contact DCA at research@dca.org.au, to seek consent.

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., D’Almada-Remedios, R., Gilbert, J. O’Leary, 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.

This video was produced in partnership with Blackfisch (Supply Nation certified supplier) 

Read transcript

Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:00):

"You're too white to be Aboriginal too pretty". "You don't have the nose". "You must only be a little bit".

Nareen Young (00:07):

Gari Yala, Speak the Truth: The experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers in Australia. Presented by Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research and Diversity Council Australia. We asked over 1000 employed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to submit their stories of the workplace anonymously.

Speaker 2 (00:34):

"When I've shared my identity with people in the workplace I've received such remarks as 'you've only got the job just because you're black".

Speaker 3 (00:41):

"What part?" "Who in your family's Indigenous?" "What percentage are you?" "You don't look it at all?" "Why would you even identify as Aboriginal?"

Speaker 4 (00:51):

"I'm black. My skin colour is black, my looks, my style - it's all black". "Do you think I get the choice to identify?"

Speaker 3 (00:58):

"When I was a student nurse, I was told by senior management not to identify as Aboriginal. I was told to identify as another nationality".

Speaker 2 (01:08):

"I've been told 'you Abos, get everything for free'. I've even been asked, 'How'd you get this job?".

Speaker 5 (01:14):

"Staff don't know how to deal with or talk about Aboriginal issues. So they say nothing at all. They'd rather talk about the death of George Floyd in America, but not acknowledge what happens here in Australia".

Nareen Young (01:26):

Hi, I'm Nareen Young from Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research.

Lisa Annese (01:31):

And I'm Lisa Annese from the Diversity Council Australia.

Nareen Young (01:35):

This video is part of a project called Gari Yala, which means truth-telling in the Wiradjuri language.

Lisa Annese (01:40):

It's the first time an ongoing national assessment of Indigenous work experience has been established using the stories and the real-life experiences of Indigenous people across the country.

Nareen Young (01:53):

The project enables Indigenous people to speak truth to workplace experiences.

Lisa Annese (01:59):

For more information on this research and to learn about how to make your workplace psychologically safe for Indigenous employees, please go to dca.org.au/GariYala.

Nareen Young (02:07):

Make your workplace a culturally safe and inclusive place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Gari Yala project was proudly sponsored by the National Australia Bank and Coles.

The rest of this content is restricted to DCA members.