While many across the country celebrate "Australia Day", it's a time of sorrow and reflection for many Indigenous people with the date signifying the beginning of Indigenous colonisation by the British.
January 26 is a date to educate, not celebrate. Life in this country is hard enough for First Nations people, we should have the privilege of going to work and just doing our job - in many cases that is still not happening.
The latest Australian Indigenous Employment Index found that one in two Indigenous employees experienced racism with many feeling culturally unsafe at work as they confronted rampant discrimination.
Indigenous Australians make up just 5 per cent of the entire workforce and when it comes to senior management roles those figures are even more dire, with data showing First Nations peoples accounting for just 0.7 per cent of senior management positions in Australian businesses.
The Indigenous employment rate is currently around 49 per cent compared to around 75 per cent for non-Indigenous Australians.
We are still seeing an unconscious and cultural bias. It's something we are born into and it affects the way we think and act towards others.
The problem is, you don't know it. Cultural bias impacts how people react to information and experiences, whether it be emotionally, intellectually, or even physiologically. This ultimately affects the decisions we make and how we impact the people and the world around us.
There's a large number of Indigenous people who feel a cultural load burden, with their employers expecting them to educate others on cultural issues. Indigenous staff are regularly asked to take on the company's cultural work like giving Acknowledgment of Country at meetings and organising events such as NAIDOC Week, because they are Indigenous.
There's nothing more humiliating than being invited to a meeting at work, just to give the Acknowledgement of Country.
I'm not saying we don't want to be in the room, we just want more than that. We have so much more to offer.
Many businesses at the top end of town have Indigenous targets and even Reconciliation Action Plans. But often it's just tokenism, a missed opportunity to embed real change, and they don't really understand the unconscious bias that's happening all around them.
Seeing Indigenous people in senior leadership roles is critical to elevating Indigenous voices. It goes a long way to support Indigenous employees.
It's shocking that more than a third of all complaints lodged to the Human Rights Commission under the Racial Discrimination Act in 2019 were "race related employment issues".
Australia has a huge way to go to bridge the gap between First Nations people and mainstream Australia.
It's time to do better. It's not hard but it needs commitment. From the top, down.
This January 26, let's raise our cultural IQ and commit to ensuring workplaces are culturally safe and more than just lip-service.
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