Why employment is important for Indigenous Australians

By Alyssa Bennett - Employment Services Manager 

We are living in an era when employment has never faced as much change. The very nature of what we call ‘work’ is shifting, as technology disrupts many industries and traditional career paths. What hasn’t changed, however, is the importance of employment to both individuals and communities across Australia.

There are a number of cohorts within our society that face difficulty in realising sustainable employment opportunities, and our Indigenous population is one that continues to face disproportionate disadvantage. While different levels of government, community groups, and even individuals have worked to make a difference, the reality is that we still have more to do.

The value of employment

The statistics around employment are very clear: there’s a real benefit for everyone in having a job. We know that those with a job have better life outcomes in general. They have a longer life expectancy, better health and wellbeing, and more housing options. The flow-on effect of not having employment is far reaching, for individuals, families, and the wider economy. 

That’s why efforts to increase employment are so important. The economic value is well reported, as is the Federal Government's focus on decreasing unemployment.

For Indigenous communities, it’s a very complicated road. There’s a significant historical piece behind Indigenous disadvantage, and responses include the Australian Government’s “Closing the Gap” initiative, which seeks to deliver enhanced employment outcomes alongside health and education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Employment is crucial to addressing the over-representation of Indigenous people in all areas of disadvantage; however, Australia as a nation is not on track to halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. 

Are we doing enough?

Like many areas in society where disadvantage is prevalent, there’s no golden panacea. It will take an ongoing and unwavering commitment across all levels – individual, government, and business – to make a difference. 

In our work with employers, we see this first hand. Typically, employers want to help the communities within which they live and operate and look for opportunities to support local Indigenous Australians. Individuals and employers will almost certainly have examples of successes and otherwise when engaging in the various Indigenous employment programs that have existed. My view is that, whilst discussing the past aids greatly in understanding challenges and perspectives, our focus is best placed upon asking ourselves what part each one of us can play to improve employment opportunities and outcomes for Indigenous Australians into the future. If we start with a personal commitment, we will collectively contribute to a better solution than what we have today. 

So, rather than asking whether we are doing enough, the question should be, how can we work together to better harness all the positive intent?

There are programs that work

At VERTO, we work heavily in the area of Indigenous employment. A significant number of our programs are geared towards helping Indigenous communities, many of them in partnership with government. 

Our jobactive and Disability Employment Services programs have a strong focus on employment for Indigenous Australians. In both these programs, we focus heavily on providing a service that takes into account the cultural needs of the community, ensuring we work in a way that best serves Indigenous Australians. 

We partner with Indigenous stakeholders and employers across our footprint to support and place our clients into sustainable employment, recognising the historical success of job matching Indigenous clients with Indigenous-owned enterprises in achieving long-term employment outcomes.

The New Careers for Aboriginal People (NCAP) program also provides a really positive opportunity to help Indigenous Australians into both training and employment. VERTO is also a member of Supply Nation, delivers community-based Indigenous Advancement Strategy programs, and has a history of sponsoring Indigenous groups and events, such as, most recently, the Wiradjuri Aboriginal Rivers Rugby League Team and the Orange NAIDOC Awards.

We take pride in our commitment to deliver authentic and value-added services. For example, we invest heavily in our internal programs that support our Employment Services team to develop knowledge and skills to positively engage the community. Delivered by Indigenous staff members, these cultural understanding workshops have really helped our team understand and connect with Indigenous culture, staff, and clients. 

Indigenous employment may be a complex issue, but it’s something that we can all individually make a commitment to positively impact in our own way. If we work together and unite our efforts across the many different areas, I believe we can make a real difference in the lives of Indigenous Australians today and for generations to come.