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State of the Service Series Report: 2012 Indigenous Census at a Glance

The 2011–12 Employee Census and the Indigenous Workforce

Of the 87,214 employees who took part in the 2011–12 employee census, 2130 identified themselves as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. This document summarises some of the key finding from the State of the Service Series: 2012 Indigenous Census under three themes:

  • leadership and culture
  • human capital management
  • organisational effectiveness

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

The full report can be downloaded from the 2012 Indigenous Census page.

Theme 1: Leadership and culture

Leadership is central to creating an APS capable of meeting the challenges of accelerated change and increased expectations of citizens. Building leadership capability has been the focus of renewed activity since the launch of Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration (2010). APS leaders are also required to motivate and develop their people and to provide stewardship of the public interest. As leaders they are role models for their staff and must embody the APS Values and create a high performing, ethical culture for their agency and the APS as a whole.

The Indigenous Census looks at three aspects of leadership and culture in the APS:

  • employee engagement
  • perceptions of leadership
  • culture, values and conduct

Diversity climate

Employee engagement levels were comparable between Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees, regardless of their location.

Over 60% of Indigenous employees believe their agency is committed to creating a diverse workforce.

Two thirds of APS agencies either currently offer cultural awareness training or have a program in development.

Indigenous employees were more likely to report that their agency’s senior leaders were personally active in improving diversity.

Perceptions of leadership

As Table 1 shows, non-ACT Indigenous employees were more likely to be satisfied with their supervisor’s management of underperforming staff than non-Indigenous staff.

Table 1: Percentage of employees who are satisfied with how their supervisor manages underperforming staff
ACT Indigenous 48%
Non-ACT Indigenous 55%
Non-Indigenous 45%

Colleagues, supervisors and SES were generally well regarded, particularly regarding their ethical behaviour (see Table 2).

Table 2: Percentage of employees who believe other employees behave in accordance with the APS Values
  Colleagues Supervisor Senior leaders
ACT Indigenous 85% 86% 79%
Non-ACT Indigenous 84% 86% 78%
Non-Indigenous 89% 89% 80%

Theme 2: Human capital management

The effectiveness of the APS rests heavily on the employees who make up the workforce. Attracting, managing and retaining talented employees is critical. The APS faces an additional challenge in attracting and retaining Indigenous employees: In early 2009, the Australian Government, as party to 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 Commonwealth public sector—including the APS—to at least 2.7% by 2015, to reflect the projected national Indigenous working-age population share.

The Indigenous Census looks at six aspects of human capital management in the APS:

  • representation and disclosure
  • demographics
  • health and wellbeing
  • learning and development
  • performance management
  • recruitment and retention

Representation and demographics

As of 30 June 2012, 2.2%1 of APS employees were Indigenous. Figure 1 shows the Indigenous representation in the APS broken down by state. For example, 20.3% of APS employees based in the Northern Territory are Indigenous.

Figure 1: Indigenous representation in the state and territory APS workforces (source: APSED)

Indigenous employees tend to be younger than their non-Indigenous colleagues. ACT-based Indigenous employees tend to be younger again than non-ACT based Indigenous employees.

In keeping with their age, Indigenous employees tend to have spent less time in the APS. However, the proportion of Indigenous employees with more than 20 years’ service in the APS has been steadily increasing over the past decade.

Performance management and development

Career intentions and separation rates

Indigenous employees are more likely to report the opportunity to be of service to the community as an important factor attracting them to the APS.

Roughly one in ten Indigenous employees intend to leave their agency as soon as possible. However, Indigenous employees in the states are more likely to intend to stay for the longer term than those in the ACT (see Table 3).

Table 3: Percentage of employees who intend to stay in their agency for at least the next 3 years
ACT Indigenous 43%
Non-ACT Indigenous 59%
Non-Indigenous 52%

As Table 4 shows, Indigenous separation rates have been higher for non-ACT employees than those in the ACT for the past three years.

Table 4: Separation rates
  2009–10 2010–11 2011–12
ACT Indigenous 8.0% 9.2% 11.9%
Non-ACT Indigenous 12.6% 14.1% 13.7%
Non-Indigenous 6.5% 6.8% 6.6%

Theme 3: Organisational effectiveness

Service in all its forms is at the heart of APS effectiveness.2 Indeed, this is a key reason why many Indigenous employees join the APS. To remain effective, the APS must keep pace with social and economic change and this requires a readiness on the part of the APS, to embrace innovation in all areas. Innovation is core to being able to achieve key public sector goals. Without innovation, the organisational effectiveness of the APS will inevitably decline as it fails to adapt to changing circumstances or provide the new services which the community demands.

The Indigenous Census looks at three aspects of organisational effectiveness:

  • innovation
  • workplace change
  • social media and teleworking

Innovation and workplace change

Next steps

The State of the Service Series: 2012 Indigenous Census marks a significant development in APSC-APS agency collaboration on gathering comprehensive statistical data to support high-order analysis of public sector trends. However, it is not a formal evaluation of the APS Indigenous Employment Strategy. Nor does it reveal why the Indigenous segment of the workforce has historically had higher separation rates. Addressing these issues requires broader work examining the context in which Indigenous employees operate, rather than focussing solely on attitudes and experiences.

1 APSED—ongoing and non-ongoing employees. This figure was revised to 2.3%.

2 Management Advisory Committee, Empowering Change: Fostering Innovation in the Australian Public Service, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018