Page 714 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 April 2014

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ACT public service Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment strategy. Secondly, it examined the effectiveness of current programs to attract and retain Indigenous employees in the ACT public service. Thirdly, it examined data collection, monitoring and reporting mechanisms, and, fourthly, it examined relevant experiences and findings from other jurisdictions—in particular, Australian state and commonwealth public sectors as well as international jurisdictions.

The background to the strategy is about, firstly, recognising the diversity of our ACT communities, with 150 languages spoken in our homes, and that 40 per cent of Canberrans were born overseas or had a parent born overseas. It is proper that we should desire a public service which reflects that diversity and indeed the unique place of Australia’s first peoples—Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

Secondly, it is about understanding that Indigenous disadvantage is built upon our shared history of dispossession and discrimination. It is our social responsibility to seek redress for the outcomes of those wrongs.

Thirdly, it is about knowing that the provision of better services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans requires an Indigenous perspective in policy development and service delivery, and that Indigenous public servants are essential for this effort.

Fourthly, and most importantly in my opinion, it is about valuing Indigenous cultural capital and its contribution to delivering better policy and services for all Canberrans. As former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said when launching the policy: “We want the expertise and insight that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can provide to improve government policies and services both to their own communities and the public more widely.”

The committee found that there is positive news, and also there is much room for improvement. Firstly, the ACT public service has an Indigenous employment strategy that is fundamentally sound and well focused. It defines measures of success, including target employment levels. Secondly, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders has increased by 55 per cent over the number employed in 2010. There are currently 238 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, according to the ACT public service, but this is well short of the 2015 target. Thirdly, the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body is contributing to the advancement of Indigenous employment in the ACT public service.

Whilst the employment strategy is good, its implementation needs improvement. The committee found that the employment strategy’s implementation has fallen short of what was expected when the strategy was jointly launched in April 2011 by the then Chief Minister and the elected body.

The committee estimates that it will be 2019 before the two per cent employment target is met at the current rate of increasing employment. This is disappointing. Key stakeholders such as the elected body have concerns about the delivery of outcomes. Slow implementation of the strategy has led the elected body to describe it as a “shelf-warmer”.

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