It’s no secret that our country has a huge challenge to address the disparity between Aboriginal Australians and their non-Aboriginal fellow Australians.
It’s a topical conversation, and our Government has laid out a comprehensive policy with detailed goals it hopes to meet in a number of areas. So far, however, these targets have not been met - leading many people to understandably ask the question - why?
Why hasn’t all the work that’s being done to close the gap shown the results we had hoped?
Why are our people still facing higher child mortality rates, lower literacy and numeracy levels, lower employment outcomes and shorter life expectancy?
I won’t pretend this isn’t a complex issue. There is no one clear answer and many perspectives.
At REDI.E, we believe the everyday challenges are overlooked and are impacting our national targets.
So, how do we get more Indigenous Australians into the workforce?
What Research Says
A study conducted by Curtin University’s Centre for Labour Market Research and School of Economics and Finance in 2012 found the following are seen as preconditions to achieving improved education and wellbeing:
- cultural identity
- cultural pride
- understanding of culture
- a sense of belonging
Aboriginal parents place great importance upon education, but also upon their child maintaining and learning about aspects of their culture for identity development; upon the positive experience of the traditional culture and the significance of support from the community to which they belong.
These are seen as preconditions to the achievement of success through education.
Research based on data from the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey found evidence of a positive link between Indigenous Australian’s attachment to their traditional culture and a range of mainstream socio-economic indicators, contrary to the assumption that traditional culture is a barrier to achievement.
However, despite twenty years of empirical research repetitively concluding the now indisputable link between culture, wellbeing, education, and employment, there has been little translated to prosperity within the communities of one of the world’s oldest civilizations.
REDI.E have made some significant contributions to embrace and encourage cultural celebration and knowledge sharing through the support of programs and facilities such as REDI.E’s language and arts program delivered from the Brewarrina Cultural Centre.
The Centre conducts amazing cultural experiences that have been proving extremely popular with tourists and had a considerable and positive impact on the Brewarrina community.
The very first step towards employment
The Government had a target, to halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade (by 2018).
It was not met. In fact, the gap has not changed markedly.
According to the 2020 Closing the Gap report
, ‘many Indigenous Australians face a conflict between family responsibilities, which are seen as a primary obligation, and the requirements associated with finding and keeping a job... Major chronic diseases and fair/poor self-assessed health status have a strong negative relationship with participation in the labour force.’
It also stated that the Indigenous employment rate varied considerably by remoteness.
As we can see, there are so many factors at play here. Which one do we prioritise? What do we tackle first?
Our philosophy at REDI.E is to go back to the basics and look at each person's situation - and assess what their roadblocks to employment are.
And when you really pay attention, when you really look at each person individually, there are some very clear common denominators, impeding our people.
Belief in themselves.
What this means is, when opportunities present themselves, they are filled with hesitation and fear.
The common things our team on the ground hear, when working with clients are:
I don’t have the qualifications for that job
I don’t even understand what the roles and responsibilities of the job are
I don’t know how to apply
I wouldn’t interview well
I don’t have a resume
Basically, several different ways of saying ‘I can’t do it.’
This is where we step in.
The REDI.E approach to improving employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians
When you ask many of our people what their ‘moment of change was,’ the moment they got on track toward a better path, they will often reply with ‘when I realised I could do it.’
‘When I decided to believe in myself and just go for it.’
‘When I realised I was worthy.’
This, right here, is what we strive to foster at REDI.E.
Our staff instils self-value, by providing the mentoring and support needed in a culturally sensitive way.
Some of the simpler ways they do this might be to help build a resume, obtain certain qualifications or learn interview skills. But the most important way they do this is by actively creating culturally enriched training and education opportunities. One goes hand-in-hand with the other to promote the greatest learning experience.
The impact of remoteness on employment outcomes
Many of our communities are in remote locations, where there is a job shortage.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t look for opportunities to grow and develop.
Our teams can be incredibly innovative when it comes to supporting their clients to learn new skills.
We are a Registered Training Organisation, so our RTO team works closely with our staff on the ground to bring courses to the people that need them.
Partnerships that make a difference
The focus for myself, my senior team and middle management is to support and guide our office sites, which span right across Western New South Wales.
We are also looking to build and strengthen relationships with other service providers in these communities - because we can’t do it alone.
If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s the task of improving employment outcomes for Aboriginal Australians is a team effort.
So we are always reaching out to the sensational organisations in our region - Aboriginal Medical Services, NGO’s (particularly those providing family support) Centrecare, Mission Australia, Breakthru - the list is endless.
With a comprehensive approach, where all these services are on the same page, we can make a real difference in the lives of our people.
It’s about listening
We are creating places where our people can walk through the doors with confidence and comfort, knowing their needs will be met.
But we can never know what the needs of our people are, unless we ask.
Our Elders have been talking about the importance of culture in learning and wellbeing for many years and it is time to truly acknowledge this advice and take action.
Change is about recognising the traditional owners of each of these communities and instilling pride in our nation and our people.
As the CEO of REDI.E, I am very enthusiastic to work with people who want to work with, and learn from - our people.
We have so much to share, we have so much value to provide.
We can't create change without listening. It’s not that hard to just have a yarn.
And if we all come together to work towards understanding our challenges, we can truly overcome them together.
This initiative is funded/supported by the Australian Government.