Aboriginal employment

Why is this important?

As a major employer local councils have a significant opportunity to improve employment and career outcomes for Aboriginal people. Local government offers a wide range of employment and career development opportunities in regional and metropolitan areas.

Employment of Aboriginal staff is one of the most powerful ways that local government can improve service delivery to Aboriginal people, strengthen relationships with Aboriginal communities and advance reconciliation.

Developing culturally inclusive and welcoming workplaces are key to improving employment opportunities for Aboriginal people and retaining Aboriginal staff. Culturally inclusive councils acknowledge and respect Aboriginal culture, values and practices, and challenge racism and ignorance.

Aboriginal employment in local government is generally very low. To address this, some councils have set targets as part of an Aboriginal employment strategy.

Read about the benefits of employing Aboriginal staff

What can your council do?

Councils can develop Aboriginal employment strategies to increase employment of Aboriginal people and address issues such as recruitment, training, mentoring, retention and career development.

The 2012 Victorian Local Government Aboriginal Engagement and Reconciliation Survey found that some Victorian councils are supporting better employment outcomes for Aboriginal people through:

* Cultural awareness training
* Employment policies
* Appointing Aboriginal Liaison Officers
* Aboriginal supplier procurement
* Assessing and developing workplace cultural safety
* Maintaining data on the number of Aboriginal employees Council has employed

The survey results do however highlight there is significant scope for improvement.

Victorian Local Government Aboriginal Employment Framework

Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has developed a Victorian Local Government Aboriginal Employment Framework to assist Victoria’s 79 councils increase their employment of Aboriginal people. Their framework overview sets out the rationale, main actions required by councils and the Aboriginal community.  The framework is as an important tool/guide for councils to start work in this area, and is also a guide for Aboriginal people to understand what local government is about. It includes fact sheets and other important information.

Cultural Safety in Local Government

In July 2018 Reconciliation Victoria invited local government representatives from across Victoria to come together for a Learning Circle on Cultural Safety in Local Government.  

Held at the Aborigines Advancement League in Thornbury, the event produced some remarkable insights into cultural safety and highlighted the challenges Aboriginal council workers can face in regards to ‘cultural loading’ issues in the workplace.

Read about what transpired in the Learning Circle – Brief report – 270718

What is Cultural Safety?

Cultural Safety recognises everyone has a right to be different and that society should ensure its institutions, including workplaces, are not dominated by any one cultural perspective.  Practicing cultural safety and ‘naming’ culture attempts to ensure no section of society is deliberately marginalised or disadvantaged.


Last Updated: April 12, 2021 at 1:44 pm

Case studies

The Mornington Peninsula Shire Council employs an Aboriginal Support and Development Team. The team includes an Aboriginal Policy and Development worker (3 days per week), an Aboriginal Home and Community Care (HACC) Coordination Officer (2 days per week), a full time Access and Support worker, a Specialist Aboriginal Art and Craft Worker (1 day per week) and an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Officer.In 2012 the Shire worked to skill up two Aboriginal people to do HACC work and two Aboriginal men to work with Traditional Owners. The council employs Traditional Owners to work together on different projects, and from time to time cultural dancers and other performers.

The City of Whittlesea, through the Aboriginal Employment Pathways Strategy and Action Plan provides a road map to foster a culturally appropriate and inclusive workplace for Aboriginal people. The council has a target to increase the proportion of Aboriginal people employed at council to 2 per cent by October 2019, by focusing on Workforce Environment and Cultural Competency; Attraction, Recruitment and Selection; Retention and Career Development; and Resources, Governance and Reporting. The City of Whittlesea currently has eleven Aboriginal staff members across their organisation and have successfully retained these numbers since 2012.

Northern Indigenous Employment (NIE) is a community initiative that aims to identify, recognise, reward and create engagement opportunities with businesses in the Northern region of Melbourne, currently employing Indigenous People, particularly youth, and those wanting to employ them. It also aims to engage groups and services providing employment assistance and pre-employment training programs. It is the result of individuals from community, business, council and education sectors, coming together in response to the Federal Government’s ‘Close the Gap’ campaign, in particular the objective to halve the gap in employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within a decade.

The Latrobe City Council developed the ‘Steps to the Future’ program to improve Aboriginal employment opportunities in Gippsland. The program is not limited to any particular industry or region in Gippsland and both private and public sector employers participate. The program offers pre-employment training, wage assistance, cross-cultural training for employers and mentoring and support to both the trainee and employer to assist career development and long term job outcomes.


Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestGoogle+Email to someoneShare on LinkedIn