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New report finds workplace racism rampant nationwide

Rachel Stringfellow -

New findings from the Gari Yala report, published in partnership with the Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research and Diversity Council Australia, have highlighted the dire need for workplaces to take action on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander exclusion and racism.

Survey data from over 1,000 respondents found extreme experiences of covert racism, a lack of cultural safety, and identity strain were common experiences of Indigenous workers across Australia.

The Gari Yala report, aptly titled in Wiradjuri language to mean 'speak the truth'; is putting Indigenous voices front and centre.

Eora descendant Professor Nareen Young, Industry Professor at Jumbunna Institute, said the Institute worked closely with Worimi man Joshua Gilbert, an Indigenous Consultant at PwC to produce the report.

Professor Young said none of the results were surprising to her.

"This is the first rigorous national survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's workplace experiences," Professor Young said.

"I've been a diversity practitioner for a long time and I've been speaking to Indigenous people about work for a long time, so nothing at all [in the results] surprised me."

"The results are completely consistent with what mob have told me over all the years I have been talking to them."

Professor Young said the partnership with Diversity Council Australia meant these findings would be able to reach at least 700 of the employer members' base.

"Despite 35 years of the Racial Discrimination Act, we still haven't worked out what to do about racism, and I think the most important thing employers can do is ask their Indigenous staff about what their experiences are," the Professor said.

The Gari Yala report provides employers with the necessary tools and resources to address Indigenous Australians' experiences of exclusion and racism in the workplace, including the 'Ten Powerful Truths' for improving workplace inclusivity as well as a comprehensive action framework grounded in scientific evidence.

Diversity Council Australia CEO Lisa Annese added that even if organisations didn't know where to start; this end-to-end report would provide them with the necessary resources, such as coordinating partnerships with Indigenous companies.

"My suggestion to employers is if you really want to be part of the future, of creating a society where we walk together towards prosperity then you need to come to terms with the fact that racism is happening in your workplace and you need to understand what racism is," Annese said.

"It's not just the obvious racial slurs ... racism is complex and you need to do work to understand.

"So, for well-meaning employers who are doing the right thing, it's important to focus on things like identity strain.

"We don't want a colonial approach. As in the Uluru Statement from the Heart; we want to walk with Indigenous people to create real solutions."

Research for the Gari Yala report was sponsored by NAB and Coles.

NAB Group Executive, People and Culture, Susan Ferrier spoke of NAB's commitment to the research outcomes.

"We owe it to our Indigenous colleagues to give them the support they need to be strong and proud voices, especially while at work. As an employer, we need to be doing absolutely everything to support that," said Ferrier.

By Rachel Stringfellow

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