Human Resource Management

Indigenous Cultural Competency in Human Resource Management:
Guiding Principles

National Stocktake

The Stocktake survey contained four questions related to Human Resource Management:

  1. Does the institution have identified programs that target recruitment of Indigenous staff?
  2. Does the institution have established programs for the development of Indigenous staff, such as study leave, mentoring and general staff awards?
  3. Is cultural competency training included in all staff induction?
  4. Are training opportunities provided for staff in cultural competency offered outside the induction process?

Summary of Findings

It is clear from the responses to the Stocktake that considerable work is being done across the sector to address Indigenous employment disparity. The majority of Australian universities identified having a formal Indigenous Employment Strategies with embedded Key Performance Indicators and identified targeted recruitment strategies for the recruitment and retention, including Indigenous Employment Programs, traineeships, internships and cadetships.

A growing number of institutions have Indigenous Employment Coordinators, Consultants or Directors to lead the development and implementation of policies and procedures for the appointment, retention and training of Indigenous staff and provide for the designation of relevant positions for the appointment of Indigenous candidates. A total of twenty-three institutions provide professional development programs and opportunities for Indigenous staff, including study leave and time release, additional funding to support activities, mentoring and career path development (Appendix 8a and b).

The Stocktake survey results evidence that the inclusion of cultural Competency training as a part of the induction process for university staff is in its infancy (Appendix 8c). One institution has implemented policy requiring cultural competency training of all university staff to Certificate IV level. However, a total of twelve universities responded that cultural competency is not included in the induction or professional development process at their institution. Four universities indicated that they are in the process of developing cultural competency training programs and strategies for the inclusion of cultural competency training in staff induction and professional development. A further seven universities have embedded cultural awareness, cultural diversity, cultural respect and/or cultural safety training within their induction programs, or provide staff opportunity to access such programs. A total of fourteen institutions identified that staff are provided with a range of training opportunities related to cultural competence outside of the induction process (Appendix 8d).

Current Exemplars of good practice

Inclusion of identified programs that target recruitment of Indigenous staff

Example 1. The University of New South Wales has developed an Indigenous Traineeship Program as part of the university’s Indigenous Employment Strategy. The traineeship program is a two year program that involves one year of formal training through TAFE, where participants work towards a Certificate iii in Business Administration, Library Services or Childcare.  Followed by a second year of workplace employment, after which time it is envisaged that the ‘trainee’ will have the opportunity for ongoing, permanent employment.  The first year of the program is fully funded by Nura Gili, whilst the second year costs are split between Nura Gili and the department the trainee is employed in.  Through DEEWR’s Indigenous Employment Program, UNSW receives financial assistance in the form of incentive payments when the trainees reach certain milestones in their employment. 

The Indigenous Cadetship Program aims to provide Indigenous students with a regular fortnightly study allowance, as well as the opportunity to gain work experience in their field of study by providing a minimum of 12 weeks paid employment for every year of their studies. Students who become cadets remain on the program until their graduation and hopefully will be given the opportunity for permanent employment after this time.  This program is in partnership with DEEWR who provide the students with a $1000 payment at the beginning of each academic year, followed by fortnightly payments throughout the academic year.  The 12 week work placement is paid by the area/department employing the cadet. 

Example 2. The University of New England’s Aroonba Yanaaya Indigenous Employment Strategy is part of the University’s long term vision of equity in access to employment and of an environment where Indigenous staff thrive. The purpose of the Aroonba Yanaaya Indigenous Employment Strategy is to provide employment and career development opportunities in a supportive inclusive environment to Indigenous people from within and outside of this region. Its Goals and Strategies include:

  • Recruitment through partnerships - Promote UNE as a committed employer, forming links with Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations to increase the number of Indigenous staff.
  • Retention of Indigenous staff - Provide a supportive environment and encourage career pathways for Indigenous staff.
  • Effective programs to implement the Strategy - Provide strong support mechanisms for the recruitment, further training, professional development and retention of Indigenous staff.

Example 3. The University of Melbourne  has an internship and work experience program from which the university is developing  formal Indigenous Workforce Programs. The University of Melbourne’s Indigenous Employment Strategy  Priorities include:

  • Development and implementation of a communications strategy that aims to raise awareness of Melbourne University as an employer within the Indigenous community.
  • Putting systems in place to ensure that all job advertisements seek to encourage Indigenous Australians to apply.
  • Implementing strategies to increase the numbers of Indigenous Australians working in mainstream.
  • The development of employment programs such as internships, cadetships and  work experience and traineeship programs.

Example 4. The University of South Australia University has a comprehensive Indigenous Employment Strategy which was developed in line with the University’s Academic and Professional Staff Collective Agreement. The Employment Strategy has an employment target of 2% Indigenous staff employment and recommends a number of recruitment strategies for achieving this target including a Graduate Employment Program. The University also has a Consultant: Indigenous Employment and Development which was established in 2001. The role was designed to facilitate the following core objectives:

  • Achieve 2 per cent Indigenous employment across the University as outlined in the UniSA Indigenous Employment Strategy;
  • Ensure equitable outcomes for Indigenous employees within the University;
  • Develop and implement the Indigenous Employment programs of the University by working closely with other staff whose primary focus is on youth and disability programs;
  • Establish extensive community networks and support programs to promote employment and retention of Indigenous Australian people within the University environment.

Example 5. The University of Western Sydney’s Indigenous Employment and Engagement Strategy’s key focal areas include leadership, role modelling, strong foundations & tools for success (14% of Indigenous staff are Senior Staff – Level 10 & above). The implementation model for the project is commercial in objectives & outcomes; care has been taken to build the IE&E Office within a culturally sensitive framework. The work of the Office is accompanied by visual & oral communication media such as social/community interest networking, media clips with culturally relevant messages, graduations & a new website about to go live. Programs include but not limited to; traineeships, interns, management, professional staff and professorial roles.

Example 6. In accordance with the Charles Sturt University Indigenous Australian Employment strategy and Key Performance Indicator 5 of the university’s Indigenous Education Strategy, CSU has developed strategies and procedures designed to increase the number of Indigenous staff employed in continuing and training positions at CSU to at least 3% by 2011. CSU regularly targets the recruitment of Indigenous staff to academic, general and managerial positions. The University has in place a traineeship programme co-ordinated by its Indigenous Employment Coordinator.  This commenced in 2005.  Since 2007 the University has participated in the STEP programme to target Indigenous Trainees to entry level positions within CSU. In 2008 the University introduced the Indigenous Employment Incentive Scheme to encourage the take up of Indigenous Staff into Level 4 positions and above in mainstream roles.

Example 7. Flinders University has an Employment Strategy for Indigenous Australians (ESIA). The aim of the Employment Strategy for Indigenous Australians (ESIA) is to improve the representation, participation and retention of Indigenous Australian people within the university.Objectives of the ESIA are to:

  • encourage and foster Indigenous Australian employment and participation at all levels of work activity;
  • maximise staff development along with the transfer of job skills and information in order to increase Indigenous knowledge, independence, remuneration, job security and self sufficiency;
  • facilitate and encourage the direct involvement of Indigenous Australian staff members in determining their own career strategies, goals and objectives.

Example 8. The aim of the Griffith University Indigenous Employment Strategy is to develop opportunities for Indigenous Australians to:

  • improve access to continuing employment;
  • improve participation in a wide range of work areas;
  • improve representation at all levels of employment, and
  • provide career development opportunities.

The Griffith University Indigenous Employment Strategy aims for 2.4% employment of Indigenous Australians in continuing positions against the whole University staff population. Specifically, the University, through the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), has committed funding as part of the IES for 2009–2011 to recruit up to three (3) early career Indigenous academics (Level A/B) annually into continuing positions within viable schools/faculties, totalling an additional nine (9) academics over this period. This initiative provides joint funding for each position for the first two (2) years. Support for research, especially completion of PhD studies, is an integral part of the initiative.

Example 9. At Charles Darwin University the People Management and Development Indigenous Employment Consultants coordinate Indigenous Apprenticeship Programs, Indigenous Cadetship Programs and Indigenous Work Experience Programs.

The Indigenous Apprenticeship Program targets entry level general staff in diverse positions across the University and combines on-the-job training and study of a nationally recognised certificate.  CDU receive some funding from DEEWR – STEP to contribute to the implementation of the program.

The Indigenous Cadetship Program targets students who can undertake an undergraduate degree and provides them with financial assistance to study full-time with funding from DEEWR – ICS. CDU provides 12 week paid work placement and aims to provide full time employment upon graduation.

The Indigenous Work Experience Program targets year 10 Indigenous high school students.  CDU provides exposure to University life, study opportunities and practical work experience in the diverse areas of the University.  CDU offer many pathways to study and employment or a combination of the two.

Inclusion of established programs for the development of Indigenous staff, such as study leave, mentoring and general staff awards

Example 1. The Indigenous Employment Program at the University of South Australia was developed in line with the academic and Professional Staff Collective Agreement which includes Cultural Leave. In 2004, a Professional Development of New Indigenous Staff Initiative was approved by University Senior Management whereby Corporate Funds are contributed towards the Professional Development of Indigenous staff who are newly appointed to UniSA.  Under the guidelines of this initiative funding is allocated to the local area to support a customised development program for a new staff member who is on a continuing or fixed-term contract for three or more years. The funding allocation is calculated as 20% of the employee’s base salary plus on-costs at the time of appointment. This is a one-off allocation (not annual) that is used to support professional development activities for up to three years. Guidelines ensure consistency of practice and provide a basis to assure Aboriginal communities, and Indigenous stakeholders, that the University is meeting the goals of its mission and Act. Underlying assumptions:

  • A professional development framework will be established for the new staff members to assist them acquire and/or refine skills, knowledge and capabilities that will benefit them in their career development and in their continuing roles with UniSA.
  • The development will be negotiated between the staff member and their supervisor within the University’s performance management framework.
  • Funding from this initiative will support professional development activities for up to three years.
  • Professional development strategies may vary from one year to the next.

Example 2. The University of Western Sydney’s Academic and General Staff Enterprise Agreements (at Schedules 9 and 8 respectively) provides for an Indigenous Australian Employment Strategy. UWS staff development policy allocates the equivalent of 2% of each cost centre’s salaries budget for staff development. This ensures sufficient funding to enable staff development related to our commitment to Indigenous education, cultural awareness and staff development for Indigenous staff. The Professional development policy also contains study leave provisions and details on Individual Professional Development Plans.

Inclusion of Indigenous cultural competency training in all staff induction

Example 1. In 2009 Charles Sturt University’s introduced policy requiring all staff to undertake cultural competency training. Cultural competency training is being to embed in induction processes at Certificate IV level (HLTHIR404B Work Effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People). 

 Example 2. Induction  at Charles Darwin University includes compulsory attendance to a 3 hour Cultural Awareness Course and a 1 hour Cultural Diversity Course, regardless of position at the University.

Inclusion of training opportunities provided for staff in cultural competency outside of the induction process

Example 1. At the University of Melbourne staff are provided with training opportunities for building cultural competency including:

  • Advice and information - The Indigenous Employment Coordinators (IEC) role is to provide information and advice to faculties and departments on Indigenous Cultural Competencies.  The IEC will assess the needs of the clients and make recommendations for the best way to improve skills and competencies.
  • Formal Training - Introducing Indigenous Matters Training is run as part of the staff development-training calendar and delivered every second month. 
  • Tailored Training – Specific training can be developed to build competencies.
  • Mentoring and Shadowing – Indigenous people or staff with Indigenous competencies will mentor staff to assist them to build their competencies.

Example 2. University of the Sunshine Coast provides Cross Cultural Competence Workshops through the Student Equity and Diversity Officer were introduced in 2009 and available to all staff.

Example 3. Since the introduction of its Indigenous Education Strategy Charles Sturt University has run regular cultural competency workshops for senior executive, academic and general staff. All staff at CSU are required to undertake cultural competency training.

Example 4. At Edith Cowan University University staff are encouraged to participate in Cultural Competency workshops which are offered through Kurongkurl Katitjin.

Example 5. Flinders University offers a a cultural inclusive training program: ‘Cultural Diversity and Inclusive Practice Tool Kit’.

Example 6. At La Trobe University Indigenous Australian Cultural Issues are included the Equality Staff Development Program (ESDP) which includes online sessions and a half day seminar. The Indigenous Australian component is delivered by Indigenous staff. Successful completion of the ESDP is a compulsory requirement for the promotion process.

Example 7. The Australian Institute of Management have an annex at Charles Darwin University which offers Cultural Awareness Courses and staff may apply to attend this course under staff Professional Development. Under the same scheme they may apply for other cultural competency courses offered outside of CDU that “will contribute to their extension of skills, knowledge and expertise and equip them to contribute more effectively to the furtherance of the University’s goals”.


International Stocktake

The national Stocktake of Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universites survey contained four questions related to Human Resource Management that guided the focus of the web-based search of international higher education institutions. The four questions were:

  1. Does the institution have identified programs that target recruitment of Indigenous staff?
  2. Does the institution have established programs for the development of Indigenous staff, such as study leave, mentoring and general staff awards?
  3. Is cultural competency training included in all staff induction?
  4. Are training opportunities provided for staff in cultural competency offered outside the induction process?

Summary of Findings

The web-based search of university central and Human Resources websites of international higher education institutions in Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Hawai’I and South Africa revealed little or no specific information concerning the recruitment and professional development of indigenous staff or the cultural competence training of non-indigenous staff. The following examples are a selection of notable exceptions.

Current Exemplars of good practice

Example 1. Following the implementation of the South African Education White Paper 3 in 1997 all South African higher education institutions  are required to submit human resource development plans, including equity goals, as part of their three-year rolling plans. The Human Resource Development plans required by each university need to address both indigenous employment and institutional culture. The strategic areas for reporting include:

  • indigenous staff recruitment and promotion policies and practices;
  • indigenous staff development, including academic qualifications development, professional development and career pathing for indigenous staff, including instructional (teaching) development, management skills, technological reskilling, and appropriate organisational environment and support;
  • remuneration and conditions of service, taking into account the increasing competition from the public and private sectors for well-qualified indigenous people;
  • reward systems for indigenous staff, including sabbaticals, and sponsored conference attendance;
  • the transformation of institutional cultures to support diversity (South African Education White Paper 3, 1997 p. 29).

Example 2. The University of Auckland, like other universities in New Zealand, has a formalised commitment to Māori peoples and has a range of policies and structures in place to meet the institutions responsibilities under the Treaty of Waitangi. The University of Auckland’s Equity and Equal Opportuniy policy and program contains a number of objectives to redress the under-representation of Māori staff in the University.
See: - University of Auckland Equal Opportunity Policy

Example 3. The University of Regina in Canada was acknowledged as an Employment Equity Employer with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission in 1989. In 1999, the University signed an Aboriginal Partnership Agreement with Government Relations and Aboriginal Affairs in Canada, to establish effective mechanisms and pathways to employment at the university for Aboriginal people. These are detailed in the University of Regina Diversity Plan.
See: - University of Regina Diversity Plan

Example 4. The University of Lethbridge in Canada has a relatively comprehensive Employment Equity Plan which contains strategies and targets for the recruitment, retention and professional development of Aboriginal, Metis and Inuit staff.
See: - Employment Equity Plan.