According to a landmark research report involving organisations employing more than 700,000 people led by Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation, Indigenous Australians have been found to hold less than 1% of senior leadership roles across corporate Australia, and more than half have endured racism at work.
This is the Indigenous Employment Index, an 85-page report which took more than 12 months and was undertaken by Minderoo’s Generation One initiative alongside the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and Murawin Consulting. It quantifies long-standing problems that lack hard data, as reported by the Australian Financial Review.
This report is based on surveys and interviews with employees at 42 organisations, including Rio Tinto, ANZ Bank, Australia Post, Atlassian, PwC, Linfox, Wesfarmers, Woolworths and Domino’s. It has been found that the mean Indigenous employment rate at the companies surveyed was 2.2%, ranging from 0.17 % to 10.9%.
The Indigenous employment gap narrowed by just 1 percentage point between 2008 and the most recent data in 2018, when 49% of working-age Indigenous Australians were in work v/s 75% of all Australians. However, representation worsened further up the corporate ladder, with Indigenous Australians making up just 0.7% of senior management and executive leadership levels among the 31 employers that had relevant data.
Racism is also widespread within the workplace, with more than 50% of Indigenous people surveyed reporting direct or indirect racism now and throughout their careers.
Employers were found to have little understanding of racism or how to respond. Additionally, 51 of 76 employees interviewed perceived room for improvement” on Indigenous employment.
When it comes to the overall “maturity level” of the organisations, more than half were rated level two out of four, having numerous Indigenous employment practices and visible outcomes. However, just 5% were rated level four, displaying “highest commitment to Indigenous employment”.
Nyoongar woman and CEO of Minderoo Foundation's initiative, Generation One, Shelley Cable, said, “Closing the data gap around Indigenous employment is an absolute must if we want any chance of closing the Indigenous employment gap.”
As reported in SBS News Australia, the federal government has pledged to close the employment gap for Indigenous youth to 67% by 2031, down from 57% in 2016. As part of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, it has also pledged to work towards a target of closing the gap of Indigenous adult employment to 62%, down from 51% in 2016.