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Indigenous employment in the APS

Improving the representation of Indigenous Australians in the Australian Public Service (APS) is essential. It will ensure that the APS is capable of meeting the needs of a diverse Australian community.

The composition of the APS workforce should reflect the diversity of the community it serves. A diverse workforce increases the opportunity for the APS to bring different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives together to solve problems and propose innovative policy.

In September 2015 the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy (the Strategy) was released. This strategy aims to build the representation of Indigenous 1 employees in the Commonwealth public sector. A target of three per cent Indigenous representation by 2018 has been set.

The Strategy focuses on four key action areas:

  1. Expanding the range of Indigenous employment opportunities.
  2. Investing in developing the capability of Indigenous employees
  3. Increasing the representation of Indigenous employees in senior roles
  4. Improving the awareness of Indigenous culture in the workplace

The APS accounts for almost half of the Commonwealth public sector. In 2016 the rate of Indigenous employment in the APS was 2.9 per cent. This represents an increase of 0.1 percentage points from 2015.

The representation of Indigenous employees in the APS has improved slightly over the last 10 years.

Representation of ongoing Indigenous employees, 2002 – 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 1.

An analysis of the location of Indigenous employees is informative. It shows that the majority are employed outside the ACT. The Northern Territory has the highest proportion of Indigenous employees in its APS workforce. The ACT and Queensland have the highest numbers of Indigenous employees of all the states and territories.

Ongoing Indigenous employees by location, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 2.

Ongoing Indigenous employees based overseas (portion and actual headcount):

Indigenous employees are most frequently employed at the APS 4 level. Representation of Indigenous employees at the Executive and SES levels remains low. Indigenous employees have much higher representation at lower classification levels when compared to non-Indigenous employees.

Further work is needed to address the goal of increasing Indigenous employment in more senior roles.

Ongoing Indigenous and non-Indigenous representation by classification, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 3.

Results from the 2016 APS employee census show that the engagement levels of Indigenous employees are consistent with engagement levels non-Indigenous employees.

Employee engagement by Indigenous status, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 4.

In the 2016 APS agency survey, agencies were asked to report on their implementation of the steps outlined in the Strategy. Almost 50 per cent of agencies reported that implementation of the strategy has commenced in all or part of the agency.

Implementation of the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 5.

Some of the actions being taken by agencies to implement the Strategy include:

Increasing agency intake of Indigenous employees by advertising vacancies on an ‘Identified Indigenous’ basis, including Indigenous graduate and traineeship programs.

Improving cultural awareness through online Indigenous awareness training for staff.

Encouraging participation in Indigenous cultural activities.

Focusing on retaining Indigenous employees in larger agencies. This includes supporting career development through working groups and mentoring progra

Improving the awareness of Indigenous culture in the workplace is a key outcome of the Strategy.

In 2015-16, 15 per cent of agencies provided mandatory Indigenous cultural awareness training for all employees. Nearly one fifth of agencies offer provide Indigenous cultural awareness training for employees new to the agency.

Does your agency offer Indigenous cultural awareness training to employees, 2016

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 6.

Increasing the recruitment and retention of Indigenous employees is another key element of the Strategy.

Three quarters of agencies reported encouraging all staff to participate in Indigenous cultural events. One third of agencies reported operating an internal agency-based Indigenous employee network encompassing staff across the whole agency. Almost 20 per cent of agencies reported that other recruitment or retention strategies are currently being developed.

In 2015-16, did your agency use any of the following measures to recruit and/or retain Indigenous employees?

Learn more about this chart: view data for Figure 7.

The APS continues to make progress as a leader in improving Indigenous employment outcomes. Agencies are committed to implementing and achieving the outcomes of the Strategy.

[1] The terms ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’ and ‘Indigenous’ are used interchangeably to refer to Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.