Communique No 7 - 14 February 2018

Communique No 7 - 14 February 2018

PM&C Secretaries Equality and Diversity Council
Friday, 23 March 2018

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

The Secretaries Equality and Diversity Council met on 14 February to discuss the inclusion of people who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander within the Australian Public Service (APS). The meeting followed the 10th anniversary of the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples on 13 February.

The Council welcomed two Senior Executive Service officers who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander to share their perspectives on ‘Walking in Two Worlds’—maintaining cultural identity while undertaking their work as leaders in the APS.

One officer reflected on their career journey and noted the importance of education, being as meritorious as their peers and the additional level of responsibility that comes with being an Indigenous Australian in the APS. The second officer also noted education as an important factor in their career journey, and reinforced the challenges of being an Indigenous SES officer – including the unreasonable expectation placed upon Indigenous SES to be a spokesperson on behalf of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Both officers noted that the Indigenous SES Network are working with the APSC to develop strategies to address Indigenous staff recruitment, development and progression. The Council acknowledged the diversity within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

These officers are both members of the Indigenous SES Network, which has reduced from 28 to 23 individuals in the past 12 months. The Council agreed the importance of the mechanisms for supporting retention of Indigenous staff and increasing Indigenous employees in more senior roles.

The Council then welcomed representatives from the Indigenous EL2 cohort from across the APS.  

One officer noted the external community responsibilities that many Indigenous people hold, such as their role as Chairperson of a local Indigenous representative body. One officer noted that working in remote communities and seeing strong senior Indigenous role models is key to ensuring the APS develop effective policy advice.

The Council appreciated the opportunity to listen to the experiences of Indigenous staff ‘Walking in Two Worlds’ and the cultural challenges experienced by their Indigenous staff and colleagues, and acknowledged the importance of continuing to consider how cultural identity impacts people in the workplace.

The Council then discussed their future work program, agreeing to the importance of continuing to develop inclusive workplaces. The Council agreed to develop a forward work program focused on talent programs across the APS including supporting the pipeline of staff between APS5-EL2 levels, inclusive management for staff at the Executive Level and the evaluation of current strategies. This is in addition to existing support for entry level staff, including graduates.