The Indigenous employment narrative has been informed by limited research, primarily conducted by non-Indigenous people and narrated by non-Indigenous voices. Much of this conversation has been told with a deficit lens, underpinned by lack of data on Indigenous workers’ experiences of and insights about work.
Gari Yala – which means ‘speak the truth’ in Wiradjuri language – has been created to gain a firsthand understanding of the diversity of Indigenous workers’ experiences. The project is Indigenous-led and has been overseen by a panel of distinguished Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander academics and employment practitioners.
- Almost two-thirds of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander workers surveyed experience high identity strain. 'Identity strain' refers to the strain employees feel when they themselves, or others, view their identity as not meeting the norms or expectations of the dominant culture in the workplace. The concept draws on literature13 demonstrating members of minority groups expend effort and energy managing their identity in the workplace to avoid the negative consequences of discrimination, harassment, bias and marginalisation.
- Over a quarter of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people surveyed work in culturally unsafe workplaces. Lack of cultural safety came in the form of not feeling skills, perspectives and experiences are valued, low representation in Indigenous-focused roles, and not feeling comfortable expressing cultural beliefs.
- Anti-discrimination compliance training and formal racism complaint procedures are key to addressing racism – but they are not common.
- It is critical that any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-related activities, strategies and work is led and/or informed by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people. This means putting Indigenous voices and perspectives at the centre of any work you do. Centering Indigenous voices cannot be done in a tokenistic way. The approach needs to be genuinely participatory and involve engaging and working with multiple Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander stakeholders (from within and/or outside the organisation).