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2012 Indigenous census:Conclusions

In general, Indigenous employees were positive about their workplace and the support shown for workplace diversity. The qualities and capabilities of immediate supervisors were generally well regarded, as were those of senior SES leaders. Indigenous employees also reported that the people in their workplaces acted ethically and in accordance with the APS Values. They also showed similar engagement and wellbeing levels to their non-Indigenous colleagues. Approximately one in four intend to leave their agency either as soon as possible or in the next 12 months, which is also comparable to non-Indigenous employees. The vast majority (over 85%) reported that they suggested improvements to work practices and the workplace. Furthermore, on several key indicators—including job satisfaction—results from the 2012 employee census were comparable with those from the 2009 Indigenous employees’ census report. Despite the challenges of the last several years, the Indigenous workforce remains engaged, satisfied and innovative.

However, there are still issues of concern. Over the last three years, Indigenous employees were approximately 25% more likely to report being bullied or harassed. The consistency with which it has appeared over the last three years means it should be seen as a cause for concern.

Furthermore, the separation rate for Indigenous employees has been consistently higher between 2002 and 2012. This is apparent for employees Australia-wide. This report has failed to find any key consistent differences to explain this. However, this report has focussed on the personal attitudes and experiences of employees. This is only a small selection of the factors which are likely to influence an employee’s career intentions. Factors beyond the individual, such as the local labour market conditions, are also likely to have an impact but establishing this requires analysis of the broader context in which the Indigenous employees work. The factors which explain the higher separation rate may be organisational or societal, rather than personal.

It is also worth noting that the separation rate for Indigenous employees has been increasingly driven by retrenchments over the last three years. This illustrates that organisational factors also affect staff separations. However it is unclear whether these are voluntary, and if they are, why Indigenous employees are more likely to seek or accept them.

When the Indigenous workforce is broken down between those who are based in the ACT and those who are based outside of the ACT, differences and similarities emerge on a number of issues. There are demographic differences between the two groups: The ACT workforce is younger than the non-ACT workforce. The ACT workforce also has a slightly higher percentage of male employees. There are also differences in the factors which attract employees and those which encourage them to leave. While the opportunity to serve the community is important to most Indigenous employees, it is an even more important attractor to those outside of the ACT. However, while ACT employees cite poor leadership as reasons encouraging them to leave their agency, non-ACT employees are more likely to cite career opportunities. The fact that different groups of Indigenous employees cite different push factors should underscore the importance of not taking a simplistic view to separation rates.

Increasing the number of Indigenous APS employees is a laudable goal, and one which requires specific strategies to achieve. While the current range of strategies appears effective, these and future efforts must take into account the differences within the Indigenous workforce as well as differences from the non-Indigenous workforce.