Indigenous champions

Last updated: 30 Sep 2015

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Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy

Many agencies have appointed senior executive-level Indigenous champions as visible role models and advocates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.

These senior leaders work closely with Indigenous employees and with each other to bring about concrete change within their agencies and in the Commonwealth public sector.

Current initiatives

Department of Human Services

The Department of Human Services leads the Indigenous Champions Network, a network of senior representatives who are committed to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment outcomes across the Australian Public Service.

Among other things, the Champions Network:

  • promotes and facilitates the sharing of good practice and collaboration between agencies such as joint implementation of initiatives.
  • develops mechanisms to consult with and involve employees on issues that affect them.
  • improves the visibility of diversity, as it relates to Indigenous employees, within APS agencies.
  • heightens acceptance of the business case for engaging, retaining and promoting Indigenous employees.

The Network is committed to two key projects:

  1. the first looks at ways more Aboriginal and Torres Strait employees can be supported to become senior executives;
  2. the second focuses on recruitment, retention and development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees in regional areas.

How DHS can assist other agencies:

  • DHS can further facilitate agencies' participation in the Indigenous Champions Network by leading working groups.
  • DHS will continue to lead the network as Secretariat.

For more information, please email GMPEOPLECAPABILITY@humanservices.gov.au.

Department of Education and Training

The Department of Education and Training has an Indigenous Leader, Kevin Brahim, who works closely with the Secretary and governance committees to ensure the department continues to embed the philosophy 'Indigenous business is everyone's business'. The Indigenous Leader assists in ensuring the department is identified as an employer of choice for Indigenous Australians, and that the expertise of the department's Indigenous employees is supported and valued in business development and implementation.

How Education can assist other agencies

For more information about the Indigenous Leader's role, please email: Diversity@education.gov.au.

Australian Taxation Office

Five of the Australian Taxation Office's Deputy Commissioners have been inducted into the role of Indigenous Senior Executive Service (SES) Champions to support the employment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. The Indigenous Champions provide support and visibility for Indigenous initiatives within the organisation.

Department of Defence

Each of the Department of Defence's three Service chiefs has appointed an Indigenous champion.

On 03 August 2012 Uncle Harry Allie accepted an invitation from the Chief of Air Force to be the inaugural Indigenous Elder for Air Force. His appointment constituted a first for the ADF. The role involves:

  • representing Air Force at ceremonies or occasions such as ANZAC day and NAIDOC Week
  • participating in select high level committees and meetings
  • providing support to Air Force Indigenous engagement activities
  • promoting Air Force as an employer of choice to Indigenous Australians
  • assisting the Air Force mission to enhance inclusivity for Indigenous members.

Chief of Navy appointed an Indigenous Advisor for Navy in 2012 in response to increased focus on recruitment and retention of Indigenous Australians. The Navy Strategic Adviser on Indigenous Cultural Affairs reports to the Chief of Navy and meets regularly with the ADF Diversity Steering Group, sponsored by Defence People Group. This provides the opportunity for strategic issues affecting the employment of Indigenous Australians to be discussed directly with the Senior Leadership Group.

The Army's inaugural Indigenous Elder, Uncle Roy Mundine, was appointed by the Chief of Army at a ceremony in Canberra on 18 April 2015. The role involves working with the Army on its Indigenous initiatives-specifically, talking to young Indigenous people about the Army, the experiences they can have, the careers that are available to them and the opportunities to learn new things in the military.

Department of Social Services

The Department of Social Services Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Staff National Committee has been established to provide strategic advice to the Executive on workforce issues affecting its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.

The National Committee represents the interests, perspectives and concerns of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including through:

  • effective advocacy and regular engagement with senior management and the Executive;
  • advice and support to assist DSS to develop, implement and monitor its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy;
  • guidance and support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff to assist them to establish rewarding careers in the APS; and
  • cultural advice, knowledge and expertise to strengthen cultural competence in and across DSS.

How DSS can assist other agencies:

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

CSIRO initiated its Indigenous Engagement Strategy in July 2007. The Strategy aims to achieve greater Indigenous participation in CSIRO's research and development agenda and activities. This participation will ensure that CSIRO benefits from the insights that Indigenous people can bring to the national challenges. It also provides a means of ensuring that CSIRO's activities are as effective as possible in contributing to addressing the challenges and aspirations of Indigenous communities. The Strategy has four pillars: scientific opportunities, employment, education and outreach and cultural learning and development.

CSIRO has established a Strategic Advisory Committee (SAC) to oversee implementation of the Indigenous Engagement Strategy. The SAC comprises Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and is co-chaired by a nationally significant Indigenous leader and the Executive Team Leader for Indigenous Engagement. The SAC provides CSIRO with independent external input into an annual assessment of progress towards the engagement with Indigenous Australians.

An Indigenous Engagement Implementation Committee has also been established with representation from each of CSIRO's Business Units to co-ordinate local actions to implement the Strategy.

CSIRO initiated and has provided support to a national award for Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people excelling in the sciences.

How CSIRO can assist other agencies:

  • CSIRO can provide advice to other agencies seeking to build Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander expertise into their governance frameworks. For more information, please email donna.smith@csiro.au.
  • CSIRO will share its Indigenous Engagement Strategy with other agencies on request. For more information, please email donna.smith@csiro.au . The Strategy is also available on Govdex. To apply to join the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy Govdex community, please email diversity@apsc.gov.au.

Attorney-General's Department

The Attorney-General's Department has two Reconciliation Champions from among the senior executive. Their role is to cultivate strong and productive relationships with the portfolio, other government agencies and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations.

The Reconciliation Champions meet quarterly with the Department's Indigenous Employee Network. The Executive Board meets with the network bi-annually. The meetings give a voice to Indigenous employees and allow the senior executive to gain an understanding of Indigenous employment within the Department.
The Reconciliation Champions participate in whole of government meetings for Indigenous Champions to address Indigenous disadvantage in the APS.

Commonwealth agencies can subscribe to the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy GovDex site for more information about these initiatives. Email diversity@apsc.gov.au to subscribe.