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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander APS Employees census report

Please note - this is an archived publication.


Since August 2005, the APS Employment and Capability Strategy for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Employees (the Strategy) has contributed to the stabilisation of Indigenous employment levels in the Australian Public Service (APS), as well as to the Australian Government’s wider agenda of improving employment and equity outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

As part of the research component under the Strategy, the Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission) conducted the first comprehensive survey of Indigenous APS employees in 2005. The results provided valuable insights into the views of Indigenous employees on the nature of their employment in the APS and helped shape the work under the Strategy.

The Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG’s) National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Participation (the Agreement) aims to accelerate improvements in ‘closing the gap’ in economic outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. An element of this Agreement includes the review of public sector Indigenous employment and career development strategies. The aim of the review is to effect increased Indigenous employment across all classifications so that it reflects national Indigenous working-age population share of at least 2.6 per cent by 2015. The Commonwealth has now raised this to 2.7 per cent of representation across the Commonwealth public sector, and the onus is on all portfolios and their agencies, both APS and non-APS, to determine how they will meet the COAG target.

In this context, the Commission conducted a second census of Indigenous APS employees to ask them again about their experience as employees in the APS, and about what is and is not working well for them. It also aimed to determine if current initiatives for the employment, development and retention of Indigenous staff were meeting their needs.

The Commission engaged the services of ORIMA Research to assist with the design, delivery and statistical outputs of the survey, as well as drafting the census report in consultation with Commission staff.

All employees in the APS who had identified to their agency that they are Indigenous were invited to participate. A total of 1,649 valid responses were received, representing a response rate of 52 per cent. Appendix A to this report provides information on the survey methodology.

Data from the APS 2005 Indigenous Census and 2009 State of the Service Employee Survey has been used where possible to make comparisons. Where such comparisons were not made, the reader can assume that there was no equivalent data from the other two sources, or that a question was phrased differently, thus resulting in somewhat different outcomes preventing logical comparison.

Information from the APS Employment Database (APSED) has also been used in outlining the demographic profile of the APS Indigenous workforce. It should be noted that the APSED data refers only to ongoing Indigenous employees, whereas the census included both ongoing and non-ongoing Indigenous staff.

The outcomes from the 2009 Census do not provide the answer to all the questions about how to recruit, develop and retain more Indigenous APS staff; in fact, in some instances, they raise even more questions. Consequently, this report should also be regarded as a platform for further research which continues to be a key element of the Strategy.

However, the findings will assist agencies and their human resource practitioners to gain more insights into the barriers and challenges that Indigenous APS employees face in their working environment. In turn, this will help agencies determine the strategies they need to develop and implement in order to attract, recruit, develop and retain Indigenous staff.

The 2009 Census findings, together with the impetus created by both the Australian Government’s commitment to achieving the COAG target and the release of Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the reform of Australian Government Administration, are a catalyst for agencies to focus their effort to improve the employment outcomes for Indigenous staff across the APS. The mechanisms for success are largely in place, and the onus is now on all APS agencies to step up to this undoubted challenge.

The report is available on the Commission’s website at www.apsc.gov.au/. A summary pamphlet entitled Indigenous APS Employees’ Census Report 2009 at a Glance, the survey methodology report, and other related material will also be available.

1 The original Strategy has been revised and is available at <www.apsc.gov.au>.

2 For the purpose of this document, the term ‘Indigenous’ means ‘Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander’.

3 Australian Public Service Commission 2006, Census Report Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander APS Employees

5 For more details, see also the separate statistical report available from the APSC’s website at <www.apsc.gov.au>.

6 <www.dpmc.gov.au/publications/aga_reform/aga_reform_blueprint/docs/APS_reform_blueprint.pdf>.

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Last reviewed: 
12 June 2018