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2012 Indigenous census: Introduction

The Australian Public Service (APS) is committed to supporting a culture of equity, inclusion and diversity, and to ensuring the public sector workforce is representative of the broader community. Diversity and inclusion means respecting employees with different backgrounds, skills and experiences. In addition to legislative requirements, including the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and the Public Service Act 1999, the APS also provides a means by which the Australian Government can meet its wider aims of reducing disadvantage and increasing employment of Indigenous Australians2.

Diverse workforces also make good business sense3. By tapping into underutilised segments of the community, workplace diversity gives the APS access to a larger labour market in which to compete for talented employees. An APS workforce that reflects the Australian community it serves is able to respond more appropriately to its citizen’s needs. A diverse workforce also allows organisations to better develop creative and innovative solutions to complex problems through diversity of thought. Increasing the numbers of Indigenous employees working in all APS agencies is an important part of improving diversity within the APS. In 2005, the APS Employment and Capability Strategy for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Employees (the Strategy) was introduced to address declining Indigenous representation rates and higher separation rates. In early 2009, the Australian Government, as party to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and in line with COAG’s National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Participation, committed to increase Indigenous employment across the public sector to at least 2.6% by 2015, to reflect the projected national Indigenous working-age population share. The federal government increased the target for the Commonwealth public sector—including the APS—to 2.7%. However, the Strategy and COAG target are simply two of the more recent steps the APS has taken to promote the representation of Indigenous people in the APS.

In 2005, to support the Strategy, the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) carried out the first comprehensive survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees: the 2005 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander APS employees’ census. This drew information from the APS Employment Database (APSED) as well as surveying all employees who were identified in APSED as Indigenous. Overall, 1554 employees completed the survey, providing information on their experiences as employees and their attitudes towards the APS. Four years later, the 2009 Indigenous APS employees’ census was conducted, drawing information from the same sources and showing the impact the Strategy was having on the Indigenous workforce. To continue this support, a third Indigenous census was scheduled for 2013.

However, in 2012 an alternative presented itself. Under the Public Service Act 1999, the APSC is required to report annually on the state of the APS. The State of the Service Reports (SOSR) have historically drawn information from a survey administered to a stratified random sample of APS employees. While covering similar issues to the Indigenous employees’ census, the State of the Service Employee Survey was not targeted at Indigenous employees and therefore lacked the coverage of the Indigenous employees’ census. However, in 2012 the employee survey sampling model was changed to a census model and all APS employees were invited to participate. This included all Indigenous APS employees regardless of whether they were recorded in APSED or not. Of the 2130 Indigenous respondents, only 77% reported that they had identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in their agency’s Human Resources (HR) information system.

As a result of this change to a census model, it is possible to report on the APS Indigenous workforce with greater coverage than was possible in 2009.

State of the Service: Indigenous employees 2011—12

The report is organised around the same three key workforce capability themes used in SOSR 2011—12:

The report draws on three major data sources:

2012 agency survey:

This was administered between 31 May and 13 July 2012 to all APS agencies with more than 20 employees. This covers agency strategies and practices on a range of issues including diversity and workforce planning.

APS Employment Database (APSED):

APSED records information for both ongoing and non–ongoing staff which is provided to the APSC by agencies from their HR systems. This covers staff administrative data (sex, age, classification level, etc.) captured at 31 January and 30 June each year as well as snapshots of staff movements such as engagements, promotions and separations updated monthly. As it covers all staff employed in the APS, APSED is the preferred source for demographic and workforce information. Data was current as 30 June 2012.

2012 employee census:

The employee census is a comprehensive staff survey covering employee attitudes and experiences in the workplace. This was offered to all APS employees between 8 May and 6 June 2012. A total of 87,214 completed surveys were submitted which is a response rate of 55%. Of these, 2130 employees (ongoing and non-ongoing) from 73 agencies indicated they were Indigenous4. Differences which are statistically significant and sufficiently large in magnitude to have practical significance have been flagged. Survey and analysis methodologies can be found in Appendix 1.

For this report, the APS workforce has been divided into three segments: Indigenous employees based in Canberra (ACT-based); Indigenous employees based outside Canberra in the states and the Northern Territory (non-ACT); and non-Indigenous employees.

2 www.apsc.gov.au/publications-and-media/current-publications/building-an-indigenous-employment-strategy-kit/background

3 Anderson, T and Metcalf, H 2003, Diversity: Stacking up the evidence, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

4 Four agencies accounted for 57% of Indigenous respondents to the employee census: the Department of Human Services (DHS), Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL), the Department of Defence and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA). AHL, with 11% of Indigenous respondents and an Indigenous representation rate of 72% represents an atypical agency. Besides demographic differences, Indigenous employees in AHL were surveyed by telephone rather than filling out the employee census online. The overrepresentation of employees from this agency may affect results for Indigenous employees, creating apparent differences from non-Indigenous employees. However, preliminary analyses suggest that this has not occurred. As such, AHL respondents are included in all analyses with any changes.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018