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New resource helps business tackle Indigenous disadvantage

Aboriginal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice
Mick Gooda, Gillian Triggs, Ashhurst Partner, Jennifer Westacott

Photo: Mick Gooda, Gillian Triggs, Ashurst partner Stephen Woodbury, BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott

A new guide for employers wanting to boost their recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is an “intensely practical” response to business needs and to Indigenous disadvantage. 

Launching the guide last week, Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs said the publication would provide certainty for employers who want to recruit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff but are unsure about special measures.

Professor Triggs described the publication of Targeted recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – A guideline for employers as an intensely practical solution to a challenge experienced by Indigenous people and by Business Council of Australia (BCA) members.

BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott, who helped launch the guide at law firm Ashurst, said the BCA approached the Human Rights Commission after being told by its members that uncertainty about anti-discrimination laws was a challenge when looking at targeted recruitment.

“Employers were getting mixed messages about the exemption process, making it difficult to use their mainstream recruitment to target Indigenous recruits,” Ms Westacott said.

“One member wanted to be able to prioritise online applications for roles from Indigenous candidates - but feared the risks of being challenged for discriminatory conduct.

“The advice provided in this guideline gives employers more certainty. It's a step forward in making Indigenous employment processes mainstream, and therefore more sustainable.”

Ms Westacott said the BCA’s latest Indigenous engagement survey showed that 85% of BCA members are now involved in Indigenous engagement activities, while 70% have an Indigenous employment strategy.

“Employment remains the top priority for most of our members in this area. And the truth is, it’s an ongoing challenge,” Ms Westacott said, noting that Indigenous employment has not increased since 2008, despite the dedicated recruitment strategies of business, governments and others.

“The fact that three quarters of Business Council companies have an Indigenous employment strategy shows us the commitment to Indigenous employment is there.

“But commitment to creating opportunities is one thing, it’s equally important to have an enabling recruitment environment.

“This guide, endorsed by all state and territory discrimination authorities, helps create that environment. This means employers are better positioned to help close the employment gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians,” Ms Westacott said.

Targeted recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – A guideline for employers was developed by the AHRC and the Business Council of Australia (BCA).

Download the publication here.