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(By Tara Cosoleto – Crikey News – May 23, 2022) – Indigenous Australians hold less than one per cent of senior leadership roles across the nation’s largest employers, an Australian-first report has found. 

The Indigenous Employment Index, released by the Minderoo Foundation on Tuesday, found just 0.7 per cent of the 42 surveyed organisations have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people in management positions.

“It wasn’t a surprising finding,” Generation One director and Nyoongar woman Shelley Cable told AAP. “But it absolutely does not reflect the leadership capacity and capability of our people.

“Employers and organisations broadly are missing out by not having Indigenous Australians around their leadership tables. Indigenous leadership can completely transform the culture of a workplace.”

The report, which surveyed organisations employing more than 700,000 people in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, found the average Indigenous employment rate was 2.2 per cent.

With a parity target of 3.3 per cent, Ms Cable said the figure was promising but still left room for improvement.

“What we need to achieve parity and proportional representation in a workplace is very much on the way,” she said. “There is quite a range between the employers, from 0.17 per cent right up to 10.9 per cent.

“The fact that these employers participated voluntarily in this inaugural index shows they all had quite a genuine commitment to Indigenous employment parity.”

However more than half of Indigenous people reported experiences of direct or indirect racism while at work (55 per cent).

Some said they lacked confidence in reporting racism because they feared repercussions or their employer would not acknowledge their experience.

“Racism is still alive and well in Australian society and therefore also in Australian workplaces,” Ms Cable said. “It’s not unique to the 42 employers.

“It’s clearly a very big issue that the industry as a whole needs to take some serious steps to address.”

Only half of participating employers collect Indigenous retention data, of which 62 per cent reported lower retention of Indigenous employees compared to the rest of their workforce. 

About three quarters of employers have Indigenous employment targets (76 per cent), with which two-thirds reporting regularly on progress (67 per cent).   

Employers should record retention data, create employment targets and monitor the progress of targets to ensure workplaces are better for Indigenous Australians, Ms Cable said. 

“There’s quite a disproportionate effort on getting people in the door and not an equal focus on keeping them and progressing them through the organisation,” she said. 

“Closing the Indigenous employment gap is a difficult challenge to solve, so trying to do it without data just makes it so much harder.”

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