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Focus area 2: Attraction and recruitment

Key points

  • Understand where Indigenous applicants find out about your job opportunities and target advertising effectively.
  • Encourage Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people to apply for positions in your agency.
  • If you promote yourself as an employer of choice to Indigenous Australians, make sure you deliver the promise.
  • Be aware that Indigenous applicants may perform differently at interview due to cultural expectations.

Attracting applicants

Anecdotally, it is believed that many Indigenous Australians find out about employment opportunities through word of mouth, reputation or referral in addition to APS Jobs or national newspapers.

An agency's website can greatly influence a potential applicant's opinion about that agency and whether they want to apply for a job. Actions which may have a positive effect include:

  • messages about your agency's commitment to Indigenous employment
  • visual images of Indigenous Australians engaged in diverse employment within your agency or in the Commonwealth public sector
  • posting your agency's Indigenous employment strategy on your website
  • communicating the benefits of working in your agency— do you provide career pathways, professional development, flexible working practices, a positive workplace culture?

The Commission website includes the Public Calling pages for specific information about Indigenous employment in the APS, such as bulk recruitment rounds for Indigenous graduates, trainees and cadets.

Other activities to consider for attracting applicants include:

  • Using career and job fairs, particularly if they are based in regional areas where you can provide job opportunities.
  • Using social media to promote your agency
  • If your agency requires a specific skill set, consider taking a role to encourage Indigenous Australians to enter these areas. This could include:
    • engaging with universities or other educational institutions to find students
    • establishing a scholarship to encourage people into a particular field of study
    • identifying the core skills and experiences you require, and providing a targeted program to upskill to specialised roles.
  • Identify recruitment pathways by:
    • considering alternative pathways into the agency which can be complemented with training applicants to be 'skill' or 'qualification' ready
    • grow your own talent by identifying existing employees to fill future vacancies (gain promotions), providing career development, training and acting opportunities.
    • considering cadetships, traineeships (including school-based trainees)
    • consider the use of APS Indigenous Pathways Program and opportunities to implement your own centralised recruitment processes where pools of positions are being filled.

Good recruitment practices

  • Advertise a variety of mainstream positions, not only positions dealing with service delivery to Indigenous communities, through Indigenous media such as Indigenous newspapers like the Koori Mail, National Indigenous Times, and The Torres News. The National Indigenous Radio Service and regional Indigenous radio stations are also effective ways to tap into specific audiences. Monitor the effectiveness of your advertising to ensure you are targeting potential candidates effectively.
  • Agencies must comply with the Guidelines on Non-Campaign Recruitment Advertising, available at http://www.finance.gov.au/advertising/index.html, where applicable.
  • Identify ways to better engage with Indigenous communities when promoting your agency and job opportunities. Are there current community engagement activities that you could tap into within your agency or other agencies?
  • Provide recruitment information to Indigenous community organisations, as well as Indigenous support units at education institutions, employment service providers and Indigenous Coordination Centres. Also consider using local community networks.
  • Display eye-catching, poster-size advertisements with an Indigenous focus, e.g. using identifiable Indigenous art styles.
  • Make sure all job ads are written in inclusive plain English designed to attract a wide pool of suitable applicants. Avoid jargon, bureaucratic language or terms that are not familiar to the general public.
  • Include the tag line 'Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people are encouraged to apply' in advertised positions, where applicable.35
  • Be prepared to be flexible about application periods. In some cases confining yourself to two weeks may restrict your pool of potential applicants. Longer application opening times can be achieved without comprising overall recruitment timeframes. If application must be tight, can you do anything to raise awareness of the opportunity before it is advertised?
  • Use selection criteria based on behavioural indicators rather than capability descriptions, as behavioural indicators are easier understand for people with limited/no public sector experience.36
  • Be flexible about recruitment practices. Depending on the role, you may be able to adjust your recruitment practices to draw out the best in the candidates.37 For example, informal discussions may reveal more about the candidates suitability than a formal interview.

35 Where applicable, agencies must comply with the Guidelines on Non-Campaign Recruitment Advertising, available at http://www.finance.gov.au/advertising/index.html.

36 For example, consider the behavioural indicators for an APS 6

37 A useful publication to reference is Better, Faster: Streamlining Recruitment in the APS

Selection practices

Public sector application and selection process are daunting for people with little or no public service experience. Consider supplying applicants with information explaining how your agency conducts selection processes, and what the purpose of each step is. Having a contact officer.such as the IEC.to talk potential applicants through what they need to do, and what they can expect through the various steps of the process, may also be helpful.

Every agency has specific needs from its recruitment processes. The approach described in Better, Faster: Streamlining Recruitment in the APS can be used for individual or bulk recruitment processes to accurately analyse, diagnose, define and implement meaningful enhancements to recruitment in any agency. Some of the approaches explained in this publication may assist you to identify more effective recruitment practices when recruiting Indigenous Australians in your agency. Some innovative approaches include job applications that only require a resume and cover statement, with no need for a written application.

Selection panels

Indigenous panel members should be used for Special Measures and Identified Positions. For all other positions, having an Indigenous staff member on a selection panel, particularly if that panel is assessing an Indigenous applicant, is desirable. This simple step can send a message that your agency is an organisation that employs Indigenous people and values their contribution. Providing selection training for relevant Indigenous employees is a good way of ensuring that a pool of experienced and skilled Indigenous panel members is available. You may also be able to locate an Indigenous panel member through your internal Indigenous staff network, IAPSEN, or from another agency.

In some cases, insisting on having an Indigenous person on the panel might not be realistic. For non-Indigenous employees on the selection panel, appropriate backgrounds, training and experience can help to ensure that panel members have the right skills to communicate effectively with Indigenous applicants.

Supporting Indigenous applicants during job interviews

Like many people, Indigenous people often find presenting themselves at an interview with a government agency intimidating, and may be uncomfortable with disclosing personal information. Providing support during the interview can assist the applicant to feel more comfortable and relaxed, helping them to present their claims effectively. Support for Indigenous (and other) applicants can be achieved in various ways:

  • providing advice on the interview process in advance so that applicants can prepare themselves adequately, and decide what support they need to participate in the interview process
  • allowing applicants to bring a support person with them to the interview who can support them by explaining (although not answering) questions, or just by being there
  • allowing the applicant extra time to become comfortable and not feel rushed through the interview
  • using appropriate language.

Special Measures and Identified Positions

Special Measures provisions and Identified Positions38 can be used by agencies to ensure they have people with the right skills working on programs and policies that impact or engage with Indigenous Australians. In addition, Special Measures provisions can be used to target recruitment activities when recruiting Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.

Special Measures provisions are open only to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants. Identified Positions are used for positions that involve the development or delivery of policies, programs and services that impact on Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people and/or require interaction with Indigenous communities. It does not mean that this position has to be filled by an Indigenous Australian.

Further advice is available from Commission Circular 2010/4: Revision of Special Measures and Identified Positions.39

Special Measures

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 enables employers to create employment or promotion opportunities that are only open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Recruiting under the Special Measures provisions is a direct employment strategy to recruit more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to your agency.

Directions 4.2, 4.3 and 4.6A of the Public Service Commissioner's Directions work with the provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 to enable agency heads to make available employment opportunities that are open only to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants.

When advertising a Special Measures position it is recommended agencies advise what a special measure is as other employers use different terminology. You could explain that this position will constitute a special measure under the Section 8 (1) of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and therefore is open only to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people to apply. Selection document should also make this clear.

Special Measures can be used to recruit to any position including non-ongoing engagements and ongoing engagements, promotions and movements at any level. It is possible to apply Special Measures provisions to SES positions with approval from the Public Service Commissioner prior to advertising.

It is a requirement for applicants for Special Measures positions that they provide proof of their Indigenous heritage and agencies need to be satisfied that this documentation supports that the applicant is:

  • of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander decent
  • identify as Aboriginal and /or Torres Strait Islander
  • is accepted as such by their community.

The merit selection process is still applied for Special Measures positions. Applicants must demonstrate their relative suitability for the position through a competitive merit selection process.

38 In some jurisdictions, the term Identified Positions is used to describe positions that can only be filled by an Aboriginal and/orTorres Strait Islander person. This is not the case in the Commonwealth.

The Commission provides centralised recruitment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the APS Indigenous Pathways program. You can find out more about these programs on the Commissions Indigenous website, http://www.apsc.gov.au/indigenous/.

If you would like further information on how the Special Measures provisions could be applied in your agency please contact the Australian Public Service Commission Employment Advice line at employmentadvice [at] apsc.gov.au.

Identified Positions

Identified Positions have generally been used where government work relates to the provision of programs and services to Indigenous Australians. They are not created under any special provision. Their use is based on long-standing convention, and an understanding that careful consideration can lead to the use of selection criteria that explicitly recognise the value of skills and knowledge relevant to working with Indigenous people and communities. The key requirements of the criteria usually are:

  • demonstrated knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander societies and cultures, and the issues affecting Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people
  • demonstrated ability to communicate sensitively and effectively with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.

Identified criteria are consistent with the merit principle and reasonable opportunity values under the Public Service Act 1999 and do not raise issues of discrimination under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, because employment opportunities advertised in this way remain open to all eligible applicants (whether or not they are Indigenous), and the criteria are simply part of the skills set required to do the job.

Agencies have the flexibility to expand or add to the core criteria and are strongly encouraged to do so. Your agency, for example, could modify a criterion to include the ability to communicate with a particular community group. Agencies can adapt these criteria as they see fit for a particular position—they are a guide rather than a prescription.

Current practice in some agencies is to include the identified criteria into all job roles in certain regions in recognition of the strong Indigenous client base (these roles may or may not be advertised as identified positions—that is a decision for each agency to make in each case). The inclusion of the criteria in such cases recognises the importance of knowledge of and communication with Indigenous communities.

The use of identified criteria is not restricted just to those roles where work relates to program and service delivery to Indigenous Australians. Agencies could consider the use of identified criteria more broadly across work groups where applicable. For example, "the ability to communicate effectively with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in the workplace".

Further advice is available from the Commission Circular 2010/4: Revision of Special Measures and Identified Positions.40

40 Available at http://www.apsc.gov.au/circulars/circular104.htm.

Last reviewed: 
7 June 2018