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Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Unemployment Gap for Indigenous Employees


3.5 minutes read


According to recent studies, Indigenous Australians are one of the most disadvantaged groups in Australia when it comes to traditional employment outcomes. In the workforce, they are still vastly under-represented or excluded. Understanding important cultural considerations and milestones such as family, kinship ties, and cultural and historical events play a vital role in incorporating Indigenous personnel into the workforce from a cultural perspective, hence minimizing Indigenous unemployment.

In 2019, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released a report on Indigenous Australian unemployment. According to the data, the Indigenous Australian unemployment rate is a staggering 19% between 2018 and 2019. Four times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. To add, the total employment rate for Indigenous Australians fell from 54% to 49% between 2007–08 and 2018–19, while the rate for non-Indigenous Australians remained stable at around 76%.


Factors Contributing to Indigenous Unemployment

The Indigenous unemployment rate can be attributed to issues such as the ineffectiveness of the Indigenous Employment Programs, as showed by the Deloitte 2020 Indigenous Employment Program Evaluation study. It addresses every side of the IEP, including vocational Training and Employment Centres (VTEC), the Employment Party Initiative (EPI), and Tailored Assistance Employment Grants (TAEG).

Other contributing factors could be:

  • The lack of sufficient RTOs across remote communities thereby limits training and development.
  • Limited labour marketing opportunities due to the lack of extension of major businesses in remote communities.
  • The lack of adequate health and wellbeing service providers in local communities.
  • The lack of a strategic approach to recruiting Indigenous Australians from businesses within the local areas.
  • The lack of adequate community engagement and outreach strategy from local businesses.
  • Limitation of cultural understanding of Indigenous Australians
  • The lack of efficient and effective workplace cultural programs and support systems.


Effective Ways to Bridge the Indigenous Unemployment Gap

Considering the above, it is essential to make your business a workplace of choice by ensuring the following:

  • A diverse workforce with a supportive and inclusive sense of community outreach to support the local community.
  • Flexible work practices with family-friendly policies that encourage a good work-life balance for Indigenous Australians.
  • Put in place rewards for magnificent work and opportunities for development and advancement.
  • Encourage open communication between Indigenous employees at all levels through the incorporation of Indigenous workplace support programs.
  • Supply opportunities for Indigenous employees to contribute to the development of the company through workplace engagement surveys targeting culture, people, and community.
  • Promote shared values where everyone is treated with respect and fairness through the implementation of workplace policies that protect the cultural beliefs of Indigenous employees.
  • Implement Indigenous-focused initiatives in your business to mitigate and end racism, create authenticity, and build cultural competence and safety.
  • Introduce initiatives that bring a positive change, such as celebrating Indigenous days or weeks of significance, Indigenous elder support, or sponsoring young staff to start a career in your business.
  • Consult with current Indigenous employees to unravel current issues in your business. Develop strategies to address and solve those issues.


Important Data to Consider

The 2020 Gari Yala Report conducted by Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, in collaboration with Diversity Council Australia, highlighted the following:

  • 37% of Indigenous reported that people see them as a menace or deceitful.
  • 38% are treated differently due to their Indigenous background
  • 44% of Indigenous reported being the target of racial slurs and comments based on appearance and lineage.
  • 65% of Indigenous are putting in more effort to prove themselves while 44% felt they had to compromise their cultural integrity and belief.
  • 33% were told to be less opinionated on Indigenous issues
  • Only 1 in 3 Indigenous employees is supplied adequate workplace support
  • 20% of Indigenous reported working in businesses or organizations with anti-racism policies, procedures, and compliance.


Benefits of Supporting Indigenous Employees

Cross-Cultural Awareness

Employing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders may help your company by bringing in new perspectives, experience, and ability. They may help your workplace develop cross-cultural understanding, which is vital when dealing with employees from diverse backgrounds and engaging with the local community.

Demonstrate A Strong Corporate Responsibility

Allow your company to show great corporate responsibility by positively changing the lives and communities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which may also lead to increased consumer satisfaction and trust.

Tap into a Wide Range of Perspectives and Expertise

The perspectives and expertise of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person will be invaluable to your company, opening doors to markets you would not have reached otherwise.

Be A Workplace of Choice

Indigenous Australian employees can make your business a workplace of choice because it enhances your reputation in the wider Indigenous community through referrals from the locals since they relate to each other culturally. This will supply your company an advantage in attracting the best Indigenous candidates over your competitors.


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