After ten years of providing career opportunities for Indigenous Australians, Crown celebrated its Indigenous Employment Program (IEP) last Friday night at Crown Perth with fellow Indigenous businesses and community members.

Hosted by esteemed Aboriginal journalist Narelda Jacobs, the night saw a moving Welcome to Country from Richard Whalley OAM, a dance performance from Urban Youth Effect, a three-course, Indigenous inspired meal by Crown Perth Executive Chef Sean Marco and entertainment from 2010 Australia’s Got Talent winners and subsequent boyband, Justice Crew.

Throughout the night, the IEP was praised for its remarkable achievements, including providing over 850 employment opportunities since the program’s inception in 2009.

Exceptional employees were also rewarded and recognised throughout the night for outstanding service, with six employees taking home a hand painted Emu Egg by local Noongar artist Linda Loo.

Member for Baldivis Reece Whitby represented Western Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ben Wyatt and congratulated Crown on the program’s continued success.

Arguably the lady of the night, proud Noongar woman and Perth’s IEP Manager, Sharon Ninyette made a speech praising past and present program participants and Crown employees.

“Being employed is so much more than just having a job,” Ms Ninyette said on the night.

 

Evident success

When Ms Ninyette first became involved in Crown’s IEP, the mother of six had been unemployed for two years, before that being employed as a custodial officer.

“After my last child I didn’t want to go … back into that environment,” Ms Ninyette said.

Instead, she decided to take a pre-employment program at Polytechnic West, now a TAFE.

Crown was in partnership with the institution and there was a position going for a Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) Officer. When she applied, she got the job.

Since then, Ms Ninyette hasn’t looked back, thriving and moving up the career ladder to her current position as IEP Manager.

“I would never want to change where I am now.”

Speaking to NIT after the gala, Ms Ninyette said she felt fantastic about all the IEP had achieved in its first decade.

“[IEP] supports our [families], gives us our self-independence and shows us [who] we are as an individual and where we can be,” Ms Ninyette said.

 

Committed to community

Currently, Crown has 198 Indigenous employees; 113 in Melbourne and 85 in Perth.

To attract IEP participants, Ms Ninyette and her team engage with communities, participate in job expos and build up their networks.

“Because it’s a specialised program, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – everyone is treated as equal.”

Hopeful applicants create profiles online, are screened via phone, then invited to an IEP information session held every other week.

Potential candidates learn about the program and jobs on offer at Crown, then are set up for interviews.

If successful, there is mentoring and wrap around support for each candidate throughout the 26-week program.

“We don’t leave anyone on their own, they’re always supported throughout their journey at Crown,” Ms Ninyette said.

Community workshops and barbeques are also held every three to four months in line with Noongar seasons.

“It’s all about building relationships and having a sense of community.”

 

Fulfilled promises and more

After being the first to sign the Australian Employment Covenant in 2009, then Chairman James Packer made the commitment that Crown would offer employment and career opportunities to 300 First Nations people.

“We’d always been committed to providing employment for as many people as possible,” said Crown Executive General Manager of Human Resources, Alicia Gleeson.

With the 300-employee target achieved in 2013, the Indigenous Employment Program has since achieved almost three times its original target.

Ms Ninyette said retention is an area the IEP focuses heavily on, evident in the program’s 75 percent retention rate.

“We’ve had quite a few [employees] go above entry-level positions … one of our security officers … came through as a part-time security officer [and has now] purchased his own home. He’s going into a management role as one of the security managers at Crown,” Ms Ninyette said.

“It makes me happy and feel awesome to see someone succeed when they’ve come through so many barriers in their life and see them excel … it is very rewarding.”

 

Growing employment and careers

With an advancement trajectory that’s seen a quarter of IEP employees obtain one or more promotions during their time at Crown, Ms Gleeson said Crown is focused on bolstering that even further.

“We’re still going to remain focused on employment [and] growing careers … within our businesses,” Ms Gleeson said.

Ms Gleeson said Crown also plans to work on their procurement from Indigenous businesses and are working on their second Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) – the highest RAP level achievable.

Crown has plans to create graduate internships for First Nations students and look into how the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) can be embodied in Crown’s commercial operations.

For Ms Ninyette, she sees herself as an Executive at Crown in future; for Ms Gleeson, she sees herself facilitating such leadership advances.

“I want to see myself … leading up to being an executive – not only just for the [Indigenous Employment] Program, but Crown in general,” Ms Ninyette said.

Ms Gleeson is steadfast in building Crown’s Indigenous leadership.

“[We] have already run leadership courses focused on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees and I’d like to see that expand and really incorporate concepts of Indigenous leadership within that,” Ms Gleeson said.

“There’s a lot that non-Indigenous Australia can learn in terms of longevity [and] survival.”

Ms Ninyette identified Ms Gleeson’s guidance and visibility as a woman in leadership has helped her see herself in a higher position.

“Crown is so supportive of women in leadership, which is overseen by Alicia Gleeson in Melbourne,” Ms Ninyette said.

“I can see myself in a role like that in the next couple of years.”

To learn more about Crown’s Indigenous Employment Program, visit: https://www.crownperth.com.au/careers/indigenous-employment-program.

By Hannah Cross