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Employment programs and supportive employers are key to knocking down some of the barriers to work experienced by Indigenous Australians.
Speaking at the recent National Indigenous Career Advancement Forum during Reconciliation Week, Branch Manager Specialist Programs, Ali Jalayer, said that while many Indigenous Australians are thriving in workplaces across Australia, progress towards halving the gap in employment rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians has been slow.
“Employment is critical to the health and prosperity of Indigenous people, offering social and economic benefits that flow to individuals, families, communities and the economy as a whole,” Ali said.
“One of the key challenges is increasing the proportion of Indigenous Australians who can participate in the labour force.
“The department does this by addressing the systemic issues that hold Indigenous Australians out of the workforce, like helping people to reengage with the labour market after periods of incarceration or when caring for young children.”
While the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business delivers programs such as the Time to Work Employment Service and ParentsNext to address these systemic barriers, Ali urged employers to become “employers of choice” for Indigenous Australians.
“Many Indigenous job seekers who are supported by employment services may need additional support or investment by employers. I challenge employers to be more flexible in their hiring practices.
“For example, an applicant’s criminal history may not be severe enough to automatically exclude them from the position. Some barriers, such as lack of a driver’s license, can be easily overcome with support from an employer.”
Ali also noted that peer support and mentoring, opportunities for training, mobility and promotion, and offering entry-level programs are effective ways to ensure Indigenous employees feel valued and see opportunities to develop in their careers.
“I also strongly encourage workplaces to develop a Reconciliation Action Plan and deliver on its commitments,” Ali added.
“Attracting, developing and retaining skilled Indigenous employees is essential to retaining a culturally diverse workforce that represents the broader community.”
The Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business delivers a range of supports to employers to engage Indigenous job seekers in their workforce through jobactive and other targeted employment services. The department supports providers to build their cultural capabilities and provide culturally appropriate services so they can better support Indigenous Australians into sustainable work.