Best Practice

The “Training Together – Working Together” Aboriginal workforce development strategy is aimed at assisting Aboriginal people to participate effectively in the workforce and to ensure that the development and application of their skill is within a workplace context. This strategy has been developed through the State Training Board (Western Australia) for industry, community and government.

The “Training Together – Working Together” committee recognised that an important element of its work was to identify examples of employers undertaking Aboriginal workforce development that lead to sustainable employment and/or labour market participation.

A set of case studies from companies currently committed to employing Aboriginal people was gathered from across industry sectors. Sectors include tourism, hospitality, media, communications, logistics, contracting support services, civil construction, engineering and mining. Key themes were distilled from these case studies resulting in the identification of eight critical success factors. Existing literature and research was also considered in developing the model presented as in the following.

1: Commitment – senior management support

The most senior person in an organisation must visibly support and champion an Aboriginal employment strategy.

Burswood Entertainment Complex

‘It is absolutely crucial to have the support of the CEO and executive
team in order to implement the Aboriginal employment program at Burswood. The Aboriginal program coordinator meets with the CEO every six weeks to brief him on a number of aspects of the program.’

Christine Ross, Aboriginal Program Coordinator

Element 2: Identified partnerships/relationships to develop a ‘talent pipeline’

Australia Post

‘Links are built at a local level with relevant organisations. In the
Perth area Australia Post has an informal arrangement with Swan District
Football Club to take on young people who are training with them. They are
initially given a two week trial and if they like it they are offered a part
time job. This works well for both organisations because Australia Post has a
good number of part time positions available and for the boys and the
football club because it means they still have time to train’.

Lennett Sandy, Aboriginal Employment Coordinator

Element 3:
Merit based employment and career development


‘Be genuine, don’t just employ an Indigenous person for “statistics”,
you must ensure they are suitable for the position. Affirmative action needs
to be balanced with merits of the job. Be prepared to take a risk sometimes,
but don’t be deterred if that risk doesn’t always pay off.”

Daniel Tucker, Managing Director

Element 4:
Mentoring/role models

‘Each Indigenous employee is supported by the Indigenous Development
Team, also through formal and informal mentoring support, to empower
Indigenous employees in the workplace, with their families and their
community. Therefore, employment and training in BIS is addressing Indigenous unemployment in a variety of roles aligned to the industrial services domain using local labour resources which makes good business sense for a stable local workforce.’

Jill Abdullah, Indigenous Development Manager Western and South

Element 5:
Cross-cultural awareness training

All non-Indigenous employees receive cross-cultural training when they start at Goolarri Media and they are also matched with senior Indigenous mentors from within the organisation. This relationship is about teaching the non-Indigenous staff members about Indigenous culture and ways, so that they are aware of, and appreciative of, the situation Indigenous people are coming from.’

Jodie Bell, Chief Executive Officer

Element 6:
State/regional/area champions (if appropriate)


‘…we have been able to secure a large amount of support from our
Accor network. In order for us to maintain this support and ensure that the
initiative is ‘front of mind’, we have identified five key State champions
who are responsible for driving our commitment and supporting the region with
various aspects’.

Element 7:
Work readiness support

Rio Tinto (Argyle Diamond Mine)

‘In partnership with community stakeholders, the Argyle Diamonds’ Work
Readiness team has implemented workplace preparatory training programs that
bridge this [skills] gap. An innovative approach teaming vocational
education, core curriculum subjects and close mentoring has seen an increase
in youth retention at school and greater employment options.’

Kevin McLeish, Chief Operating Officer

Element 8:
Realistic target setting and evaluation

Sinclair Knight Merz

‘Due to the following two key factors, SKM’s ability to offer
employment to Indigenous Australians is very limited; over 90% of SKM staff hold university degrees as [we are] a professional services organisation across all technical fields. Employment opportunities primarily require suitable tertiary qualifications and very low numbers of Indigenous secondary students achieve Year 12 completion to meet university entrance requirements.
As a consequence, SKM’s longstanding commitment, as recently encapsulated in SKM’s Reconciliation Action Plan, is to take the two following key actions:

  1. Work closely with Beacon Foundation to increase Indigenous school retention to Year 12.
  1. Provide Indigenous students in tertiary education support through the company’s National Indigenous Cadetship Program. To date 34 cadets have accessed this facility across our Australian offices.’

Bill Lawson, Manager – Indigenous Strategy