Indigenous public servant forum to tackle barriers to employment

  • Published Date: 06 December 2018

Over 80 Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori public servants from ten jurisdictions will meet next week in Canberra at the second ANZSOG Indigenous Public Servant Forum. The Forum will build on the work of the 2017 Forum, with an outcomes-focused approach to improving representation of Indigenous peoples, culture and knowledge in the public sector. 

Professor Ian Anderson AO, Deputy Secretary at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and ANZSOG Dean and CEO, Professor Ken Smith will open the Forum addressing delegates over dinner ahead of one and a half days of intensive workshops.

Presenters at the Forum include Samantha Faulkner from the National Health and Medical Research Council, speaking to her research project on the barriers and enablers to career progression for Indigenous public servants. Michelle Hippolite, Chief Executive of Te Puni Kōkiri NZ, will also speak on State Sector reform in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Indigenous public servants face unique challenges in operating in western institutions while maintaining their commitment to their culture and communities. Many public sector agencies struggle to recognise and accommodate this, and have been unable to design, develop and implement sustainable recruitment, retention and professional development strategies for Indigenous employees, so they can assist governments to deliver improved outcomes for their people. 

The Forum aims to give Indigenous public servants a voice and help them consider ways to remove the barriers that are stopping public services taking advantages of the skills and knowledge of Indigenous people. ANZSOG is committed to helping public services increase the numbers of Indigenous public servants at all levels, to ensure that Indigenous voices are represented in policy-making and implementation.

Forum facilitators Professor Kerry Arabena and Craig Ritchie will assist delegates to shape the discussions from the first day into an action plan, formal statement or set of principles, and determine the next steps the Forum should take.

Delegates at last year’s Forum identified four key issues for improving the position of Indigenous people in public services:

  • creating career pathways, improving retention of Indigenous public servants and development of Indigenous leaders
  • recognising Indigenous knowledge in the public sector
  • moving from narratives of deficit to success
  • achieving a balance between “ignoring the Indigeneity of First People and expecting Indigenous people to be ‘the sole representatives of a pan-Indigenous culture’”.

ANZSOG will assist delegates after the Forum, so that it builds into a supportive network of Indigenous public servants working to address the issues they identify.

The forum begins on the evening of Sunday 9 December and continues until 11 December.

The Forum builds on ANZSOG’s landmark Indigenous Affairs and Public Administration: Can’t We Do Better? conference in October 2017, held with the support of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The conference brought together academics, public servants, and representatives of Indigenous organisations from Australia and New Zealand to discuss a better way forward for Indigenous affairs, and how best to include Indigenous knowledge and culture in the day-to-day work of public services. Read the 2017 Conference report and the 2017 Forum report. A second conference, Reimagining Public Administration: First Peoples, governance and new paradigms, will be held in Melbourne on 20-21 February 2019.

Indigenous Forum delegates were nominated by the Public Service Commissioners in each jurisdiction, and by the New Zealand State Services Commissioner. The Reimagining Public Administration conference is open to anyone with an interest in the future of Indigenous Public Administration in Australia and New Zealand and registrations are open now.