Despite the push for inclusivity in the workplace, it is still an uphill battle for indigenous groups. The Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Research and Education at the University of Technology Sydney and Diversity Council Australia conducted a large-scale survey of the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They revealed their findings in a report titled Gari Yala, which means “speak the truth.”

Issues That Indigenous People Face

The report revealed that a large majority of the respondents (78%) feel that sharing their indigenous background was important. However, because of racism and prejudice in their workplace, many did not feel comfortable talking about their culture.

Additionally, indigenous people also carry the burden of “cultural weight” by being in an organisation comprised of primarily non-indigenous people. The researchers even coined the terms identity strain and cultural load to refer to these issues. 

Identity strain refers to the “strain employees feel when they themselves, or others, view their identity as not meeting the norms or expectations of the dominant culture in the workplace.” As a result, they find that they have to work twice as hard to prove their worth. Some also report that they were asked to do something that compromises their cultural identity. 

On the other hand, the cultural load is the extra burden carried by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander staff in workplaces with few or no other indigenous people. This comes in the form of extra work demands and the expectation to educate their non-indigenous colleagues.

How Can Employers Help?

Organisations may say that they want to create a workplace that treats Indigenous people equally. But only a quarter of the participants reported that they work in a place committed to that change.

So what can employers do to create an inclusive workplace for Aboriginals and/or Torres Strait Islander people? Gari Yala offers a few pointers. 

  • Asking Aboriginal and/or Torres Islander staff about their experience at work
  • Any work related to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people should be led and informed by indigenous people. This includes engaging with indigenous people both inside and outside the organisation
  • Developing organisational principles to make it clear how Indigenous community engagement and employment should work in practice
  • Focusing on the organisation’s readiness to employ indigenous people instead of getting them to be “work-ready.”
  • Acknowledging identity strain and educating non-indigenous people on interacting with their indigenous colleagues to minimise or prevent it 
  • Recognising that cultural load exists and working on reducing it
  • Addressing workplace racism and acting on it. This can include having formal racism complaint mechanisms and training managers on handling those complaints.
  • Supporting and building better careers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through career and leadership development
  • Looking into high-impact initiatives that promote the well-being of indigenous employees. Initiatives include mentoring and support, anti-discrimination training, and celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island days and weeks of significance.

Is your organisation a culturally safe place for indigenous staff? 

If you’d like to know how your company can uphold Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander inclusivity starting a conversation with the best IT recruitment consultants in Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Brisbane by emailing or calling 1300 544 652.