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Culturally Inclusive Recruitment: A Considered Approach

With Indigenous employment rates up to 25% lower than non-Indigenous Australians the Community Services Industry can make a difference and benefit from creating inclusive, diverse workplaces. So how should your organisation go about hiring staff in a culturally aware way?

Culturally inclusive recruitment is not a new concept by any means, with many organisations having written policies in place. But how can Industry move beyond this and lead the way in culturally inclusive recruitment?

This week we sat down with Carol Vale, in her capacity as Managing Director of the Indigenous consultancy firm Murawin, to chat about how community services organisations can improve cultural inclusivity.

A considered approach to recruitment

Ms Vale has found that it needs to be more than having culturally inclusive recruitment policies on paper.

“Culturally inclusive recruitment is about not relying on rhetoric, and learning to ‘walk your talk’,” Ms Vale said.

While it’s important for all human resources policies to be respectful of current and prospective employees, it’s crucial for employers to remember the unique set of cultural considerations for Indigenous candidates, such as intergenerational trauma and systemic bias.

Intergenerational trauma, resulting from historic wrongs such as child removal and discrimination have been noted as having an enduring effect on Indigenous outcomes. 

“If you think about Aboriginal people, the whole issue of trauma-informed policies is essential,” Ms Vale said. 

“Intergenerational trauma has been with us and continues to be with us. Many things may trigger an Aboriginal person because of intergenerational trauma – which they themselves may not even be aware of, so it's about organisations having trauma-informed policies in place.”

It’s important to support everyone in your organisation.

Overcoming systemic bias in the workplace

Ms Vale believes that taking a strengths-based approach and overcoming systemic bias and stereotyping is essential for a fair recruitment process. 

“Don't expect minimal engagement just because somebody's Aboriginal – expect the same effort as non-Indigenous colleagues,” Ms Vale said.

“Aboriginal staff know, generally speaking, ‘if my non-Indigenous colleague gives 100%, I'm going to give 110%.’”

While many organisations may think of themselves as being inclusive, bias and racism still impact Indigenous candidates. Ms Vale believes managers must show leadership against workplace racism if they want to recruit and retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.  

“It's about obvious racism and subtle racism and being aware it needs to be nipped in the bud. Managers have the capacity to do that in the workplace,” Ms Vale said.

“Racism can rise up as people not being given promotions or being overlooked for other opportunities. It's that subconscious stuff that still exists in the workplace.”

Aiming for more than targets

Once your organisation knows how to best integrate cultural inclusion into its HR processes, Ms Vale said it’s essential to translate this knowledge into practical initiatives, such as flexible induction programs and making Indigenous applicants aware of the support available to them at work.

“Have policies about how to manage sorry business. Show them the pathway to CEO. Show them what's possible regardless of the level you're at,” Ms Vale said.

“You've got to give Indigenous people hope.”

When it comes to increasing the number of Indigenous staff in an organisation, Ms Vale’s experience shows us that recruitment is about being proactive, positive, taking strategic risks and setting targets.

“Always aim for more than just the targets,” Ms Vale said.

“Aboriginal business is everybody's business in the organisation; it doesn't just belong to the Aboriginal staff or the managers of the Aboriginal staff.”

Finally, it’s important to remember that having an engaged, culturally supported Indigenous workforce means that your business is better positioned to service the community.

“You've got to be unafraid of engaging and working in the Indigenous space because otherwise Aboriginal people don't get the quality of services that they deserve and is their right to receive,” Ms Vale said. 

“People get second-hand or minimal service delivery because somebody's too afraid of the race card. Well, my response to that is if you need some training to boost your confidence to work inter-culturally, do it.”

Do you have sufficient strategies in place to recruit and retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff? Find out what's missing in your organisation's workforce strategies, policies and procedures with the Business Maturity Scorecard.

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