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NAIDOC 2021: On ancient cultures, and modern workplaces

By Professor Deen Sanders OAM

Through his eyes…

Professor Deen Sanders OAM is a Worimi Man and Lead Partner at Deloitte. He shares his thoughts for NAIDOC week 2021.

As an Aboriginal person, it is my deeply held belief that every person benefits from living in better relationship with their community and country. So how do we do that in the context of the present day workplace?

For the last 200 years or so we have thought that connecting with community was something you could only do after first meeting your obligations to productively engage with the workplace of labour, machine or desk. Something I hear frequently these days is how COVID lockdowns and the general arc of changing workplace practices are moving us into a new relationship with home, family and community. For many this is a revelation, but it’s of little surprise to Aboriginal Australians because work was not separated from living, it was woven into the fabric of life. Cities were never going to entirely erase the heartbeat of country or overturn hard learned, ancient lessons, about how to thrive. Country, community and family were always at the heart of it.

Both modern workplace theory and my ancient culture tells me that cities and workplaces are also living systems and like all living systems, they should be measured in the strength of their heartbeat, rather than in the mere existence of a heart. Genuinely looking for the joy in Aboriginal culture as an enhancement to your workplace is a powerful way to find that heartbeat – and NAIDOC week is a perfect way in.

You probably have a Reconciliation Action Plan initiative underway for NAIDOC and that is good – but I also encourage you to widen the lens for your workplace. As corporate tools RAP’s can narrow our focus to acts of doing good (asking how can we help our Indigenous community) or worse, become a tool for benefit extraction (what recognition/ brand/ marketing benefit can we get?). There is utility in that approach. It is a good start and Indigenous Australia will strengthen from commercial alignment – but utility is a poor measure of a heartbeat.

I want more from our workplaces than this and I want more for our workplaces than this. Not because Indigenous Australia deserves more (although it does) but because we have gifts for you that extend far beyond the metrics in a RAP, and they will change how we succeed in this country.

NAIDOC is a way into that as a celebration of the diverse cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We invite you to see our history and achievements as not only measured in story, dance and art but also as a way to think about the world, a way to engage in productive relationships and leadership and to thriving in this country.

The 2021 NAIDOC theme of Heal Country, Heal Our Nation is a genuine claim. Healing our nation will come from healing our country. Creating workspaces that recognise the living relationship we have with the space around us and giving permission for people to sit, play and work in relationship to that landscape is the best measure of the strength of your heartbeat.

This article was originally published by Diversity Council Australia.

Read more DCA research on the topic:

Gari Yala (Speak the Truth): Centreing the experiences of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians at work

Gari Yala (Speak the Truth)
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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, The world @work

NAIDOC 2021: From standing alone to standing together

By John Paul Janke

I’ve always had a special connection to NAIDOC Week; it holds such special memories for me.

In the 1970s, I remember gatherings and street marches in Cairns with my family and when we moved to Canberra in the late 1970s – attending many community and public events across National Capital.

Back then, NAIDOC had just expanded from one day called ‘National Aborigines Day’ to a week of celebrations. National Aborigines Day was the second Friday in July. Nationally that was the one significant day for events, marches and celebrations.

My dad worked in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and he organised many of the public events here in Canberra. I recall handing out posters and stickers with him at the local shopping malls, meeting iconic Aboriginal identities like David Gulpilil, Lionel Rose, Evonne Cawley, Charles Perkins and seeing how traditional performances of songs, culture and dancing captivated a wider non-Indigenous public.

Sadly, I also recall the taunts of kids at school on National Aborigines Day saying to me that it was ‘National Boong Day’, ‘Abo Day’ or even ‘my birthday.’

We’ve worked hard to move past that kind of school yard ignorance.

More than ever before, our nation is embarking on conversations about its history – our real history – and about the ‘unfinished business’ of this country – its relationship with its First Nations people.

For me, NAIDOC Week plays such a vital part in these discussions through the hundreds of events each year organised by our communities, government agencies, corporates companies, local councils, universities, schools, and workplaces.

We all know it is beyond time for these conversations.

NAIDOC Week each July unfurls such an enormous sense of pride for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the Country.

All Australians should share that pride – celebrating and acknowledging with pride that this continent is home to the oldest living continuous culture of the planet.

Is that not something that all Australians should celebrate?

As the Co-Chair of the National NAIDOC Committee, it gives me enormous satisfaction to witness the growing enthusiasm and interest for NAIDOC Week each year and the sheer diversity and breadth of celebrations across the nation.

I sometimes smirk when I think back to those school kids who taunted me decades ago in that their children or grandchildren are now learning more about Indigenous history, culture and achievement than ever before.

As Co-Chair of the National NAIDOC Committee it is my role to help facilitate their understanding and awareness.

Image: National NAIDOC committee

Image: National NAIDOC Committee. John Paul Janke, centre.

That awareness can be as easy as learning whose traditional country you live on, learning the names of other Indigenous clans or nations, learning some local language, or knowing of the sacred places in the country that surrounds you.

It is language and knowledge spanning the rise and fall of every other great civilisation on the planet.

Take this challenge: Ask yourself how many First Nations of North America can you name? Maybe like me you can name a few: the Cherokee, Apache, Navajo, Sioux, Cheyenne, Iroquois, or Lakota nations.

Can you recall the same amount for this continent’s Aboriginal nations?

For me, it also time to start engaging in conversations about sovereignty, of Frontier Conflict, of Invasion, of theft of land, of massacres and of the fiction of terra nullius. They are the stories of our shared history – our nation’s story.

Without learning of them – we have been robbed of the history of this country.

I love the opening line in the 2020 Midnight Oil single Terror Australia (written by Peter Garrett & and the late Bones Hillman and sung by Naarm (Melbourne) based Wergaia/Wemba Wemba woman Alice Skye):

“You can’t think about the future still running from the past.”

We must never forget that NAIDOC Week is a week borne from a day of protest, a movement towards justice, equality, and freedom and basic human rights.

It’s a week that celebrates and acknowledges our history, our present and looks with hope towards the future.

There is no other week quite like NAIDOC Week. Join Us.

Happy NAIDOC Week 2021.

This article was originally published by Diversity Council Australia.

Read more DCA research on the topic:

Gari Yala (Speak the Truth): Centreing the experiences of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians at work

Gari Yala (Speak the Truth)
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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion

This International Women’s Day, Australian businesses can lead on domestic violence crisis

Domestic violence is a critical issue for the workplace, especially as COVID-19 continues to blur the line between home and office, whilst also driving a documented spike in violence against women.

But what are workplaces doing to address the issue? And is it really an issue for workplaces at all?

The questions come on the back of a new myth-buster from Diversity Council Australia (DCA) and Our Watch.

The resource – released in the lead up to International Women’s Day – challenges the myth that domestic, family and intimate partner violence is not a workplace issue, despite Australian business losing a staggering $1.9 billion a year due to this ‘shadow pandemic’.

Without a change of perspective, Australia’s economy may lag – when COVID-19 dictates it can least afford to – and many more women will be seriously harmed. Some will ultimately lose their lives.

Diversity Council Australia’s CEO Lisa Annese said: “It’s a myth that domestic and family violence doesn’t have anything to do with the workplace. In reality, domestic and family violence is the workplace issue of our challenging times. If an employee is living with, or using, domestic or family violence, it will have an impact on the workplace through absenteeism, presenteeism and the costs of replacement hiring.

“While workplaces may have concerns about implementing policies like paid leave for domestic violence, research shows that they have a hugely positive impact for employees and business alike, for a relatively small cost.

“But we must remember the most important statistics of all: almost 10 women a day are hospitalised for assault injuries perpetrated by a spouse or domestic partner, and, on average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. Supporting women who experience this kind of violence is the right – the only – thing for workplaces to do.”

Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly, whose organisation collaborated on the myth-buster, said: “There has been a huge shift in the community conversation about this issue in recent times.  Violence against women is recognised as the serious and highly prevalent crime that it is, and most people understand that addressing this crisis is the entire community’s responsibility.

“We know from the evidence that violence against women is driven by gender inequality, which is deeply entrenched in society through our policies, laws, systems, workplaces, attitudes and behaviours. It’s evident in language and practices that still too often ‘blame the victim’ or minimise or excuse men’s violence.

“Given workplaces are where we spend so much of our time and have such a huge influence over our lives, it’s critical they take an active role in promoting gender equality and addressing the drivers of violence against women.

“As we’ve so often heard during this pandemic: women’s lives and livelihoods are at stake.”

Continue reading on the DCA website: Myth Busting Domestic & Family Violence at Work

This article was originally published by Diversity Council Australia and Our Watch.

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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, Interchange Bench

Wear It Purple: We are the change

The theme for this year’s Wear It Purple Day, to be held on 28th August is: ‘We are the Change’.  Beginning in 2010 as a youth response to global stories of bullying, harassment and suicides of rainbow young people, Wear It Purple Day has since transformed into an international movement celebrating rainbow young people and a mainstay in the D&I calendars of leading practice employers.

With 2020 marking ten years of Wear It Purple, co-founder Katherine Hudson shared with DCA her perspectives on achievements to date, current and future priorities and how organisations can play a leading role in creating LGBTIQ+ inclusive workplaces.

While no longer involved in the day to day work, with Wear it Purple Day now run by the next generation, Katherine remains passionate about the importance of visually showing solidarity on this day: “If you come from a family, area or school, which is not accepting, but you know that other people in your environment think you’re okay – that can make so much of a difference to young people feeling accepted.”

Despite great shifts in community attitudes in recent years, Katherine explains that LGBTIQ+ young people remain at increased risk of mental illness and suicidal ideation, particularly under current pandemic conditions that create distress through directives to stay home in an environment that might not feel safe.

“I’ve heard many stories of particularly trans and non-binary members of the rainbow alphabet who are back home and those daily microaggressions like not being called by the pronouns that they use, by the name that they’ve adopted that represents their gender identity more correctly.”

Organisations can make a significant difference to rainbow youth mental health and wellbeing through creating inclusive and accepting workplace cultures. Says Katherine, “If we’re talking about gender and sexuality, it’s about how do we make an environment so that it doesn’t matter what gender you are, but at the same time we celebrate and accept your gender.”

But for genuine inclusion to occur, Katherine believes a whole organisation focus that avoids, in her words, ‘the liquorice all sorts’ effect – separate layers of diversity that are not cohesive or co-operative, is key.

Some positive actions she advocates include hiring practices that reduce biases, LGBTIQ+ awareness training, educating on respectful and appropriate language, and enabling all employees to share their perspectives, rather than just providing opportunities that privilege the dominant group.

In terms of overall progress on rainbow youth inclusion, Katherine credits Gen Z with lighting the way: “I was in a suburban Coles and I heard this girl who would have been about 15 years old. And it became very clear from overhearing that she’s out at school and dating and she’s loudly discussing what flowers to get her girlfriend. The only attitude from others I noticed was, ‘Oh, typical teenager – so loud!’.”

Ultimately, it’s the everyday acceptance of Wear it Purple Day that Katherine is most proud of: “I can walk down the street on Wear it Purple Day and see teenagers in purple and they have no idea who I am, and I’ll say ‘Happy Wear it Purple Day’ to them, and they say it back. And I just keep walking. No one’s threatening you. Everyone’s embracing you. That’s what I’m proud of from this movement.”

Support Wear it Purple Day this 28th August and celebrate the inclusion of LGBTIQ+ diversity within your workplace and community.

Resources

For more information on LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the workplace check out the following DCA resources:

  • Out At Work: From Prejudice to Pride: This report presents evidence about what it means to be out at work, and what organisations can do to make everyone feel included
  • Intersections At Work: Research into the workplace inclusion experiences of culturally diverse LGBTQ workers
  • The Art of Inclusion: DCA’s podcast episodes, ‘When Love Hurts’ on domestic violence through the lens of LGBTIQ+ relationships and ‘Out in the Open’ with a transgender executive on the business of transitioning
  • Events: recordings of past events on LGBTIQ+ topics
  • Website: the full range of LGBTIQ+ insights and resources.

If you or someone you know is struggling or having a hard time please reach out to the following organisations for help:

  • Lifeline Australia: Free 24-hour telephone crisis support such as suicide prevention, mental health support and emotional assistance.
  • QLife: Free Australia-wide anonymous, LGBTI peer support and referral for people wanting to talk about a range of issues including sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships.
  • Beyond Blue: Mental health and wellbeing support to address issues related to depression, suicide, anxiety disorders and other related mental illnesses.
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IWD 2020: Do we still really need workplace gender equality?

This International Women’s Day, Diversity Council Australia (DCA) is challenging the idea that workplaces no longer need to address gender equality.

Drawing from academic and industry research, DCA has released an infographic highlighting some examples of where gender inequalities limit men and women in the workforce.

“Over 100 years on from the first IWD, we’ve come a long way in creating gender equality – but we still have a long way to go,” DCA CEO Lisa Annese said. “In 2020, gender inequalities continue to limit the ability of both men and women to be respected and to contribute at work and at home.

Lisa said that the research showed there is a link between messages we receive in childhood and the career trajectories we take.

“Research has shown that before they are two years old, children are aware of gender stereotypes. Those gender stereotypes influence everything from what toys children play with, to what subjects they choose at school, having life-long impacts on career choices.

“And gender stereotypes continue to hold us all back throughout our lives, for example with women taking on the bulk of unpaid caring and social pressures on men to be providers and main income earners.

“We know from DCA’s research that workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives benefit men and women. And when both men and women have access to flexible work options, they are more able to share responsibilities at home.

“Ultimately then, gender equality at work means improvements in all of our lives, at work and at home.

“So this International Women’s Day is a good reminder that we do still need workplace gender equality so we can lead more equal lives at work and at home,” concluded Lisa.

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What are the myths (and facts) on ageing and work?

The Australian population is ageing. This has led to a lot of public policy and debate around the need to reduce welfare costs and respond to projected shortfalls in labour as older workers retire in large numbers.

Prolonging the working life in an inclusive way, and promoting solidarity of different employee life stages, are key issues in the workplace.

To help [organisations] with this, Professor Philip Taylor from Federation University Australia and DCA are tackling some misconceptions around age and work.

Myth #1: Age discrimination towards older workers is endemic
Reality: Age discrimination is potentially faced by all workers

While it is often characterised as a problem solely experienced by older people, in fact, young people experience age discrimination too. Age discrimination manifests in many forms – a lack of employment, under-employment, during recruitment, lack of career opportunities, and stereotyping.

Myth #2: Different generations have different orientations to work
Reality: It is employee life stage (e.g. school leaver, working parent, graduating to retirement) that makes a big difference – not generation

Generational constructs such as ‘Millennial’ or ‘Boomer’ are caricatures which provide a poor basis for making employment decisions. Instead, providing age inclusion over the entire employee lifecycle is key – from school leavers looking for their first work experience, to people seeking return to work after raising children, through to older workers wanting to transition to retirement.

Myth #3: Older people are a homogenous group
Reality: Older and younger people have intersectional parts of their identity which impacts on how they experience inclusion at work

People aren’t one-dimensional. Whether people are older or younger, it is how the multiple aspects of their identity intersect that impacts on how they experience inclusion at work.

Myth #4: Older workers outperform younger ones in terms of their reliability, loyalty, work ethic and life experience
Reality: Performance is not linked to age – except in very rare instances

These are age stereotypes. A better starting point for managers would be to not assume correlation between age and performance. Age-based decision-making is not only discriminatory, it also has no competitive advantage.

Myth #5: Older people have a lifetime of experience that managers should recognise
Reality: Relevant experience, is more valuable than experience, of itself

Life experience may sometimes be valued for a given role, but not always. It is better to consider what relevant experience people have and what, if any, gaps may need to be filled.

Myth #6: Younger workers are more dynamic, entrepreneurial, and tech savvy than older workers
Reality: Older people have a lot to offer the modern workplace

It should not be assumed that people have a given quality just because they are older or younger. Workplace policies should instead be built on a foundation of age neutrality.

Myth #7: Younger workers feel entitled and won’t stick around
Reality: Younger workers are more likely to be in insecure employment and to experience unemployment

Research shows that there is little link between age and someone’s commitment to work. This is just another example of an unfounded ageist stereotype.

Myth #8: Older people who stay on at work are taking jobs from younger people
Reality: Increasing the employment of older workers does not harm, and may even benefit, younger people’s employment prospects

Actually, research demonstrates that, across the OECD countries, increases in rates of older people’s employment are associated with higher youth employment rates or demonstrate no relationship at all. While young and old are sometimes characterised as being in conflict, the reality is that we are all in this together.

This article was written by Professor Philip Taylor. DCA members can read the full myth-buster on the Diversity Council Australia website.

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