Guide to incorporating an Indigenous workforce strategy in national partnership agreements
The National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Participation (A copy of the Agreement is available on the Ministerial Council for Federal Financial Relations website at www.federalfinancialrelations.gov.au/content/national_partnership_agreements/indigenous.aspx )(the IEPNP), signed in February 2009, includes a commitment to incorporate Indigenous Australian workforce strategies into all new major Council of Australian Governments (COAG) reforms. The IEPNP estimates that 8000 jobs will be generated for Indigenous Australians under this measure. Parties to the IEPNP have agreed that core components of workforce strategies will include the acquisition of recognised and accredited mainstream qualifications and training pathways for Indigenous Australians.
By incorporating Indigenous workforce strategies into relevant COAG reforms, governments will leverage their investments in infrastructure, procurement and service delivery to drive Indigenous employment outcomes.
This guide sets out the following:
key components of an Indigenous workforce strategy
identifying when an Indigenous workforce strategy is appropriate
the process for incorporating an Indigenous workforce strategy into a national partnership agreement
key sections of the national partnership agreement where an Indigenous workforce strategy could be incorporated.
1. Key components of an Indigenous workforce strategy
A workforce strategy differs from an employment strategy in scope and overall vision. Workforce strategies are aimed at achieving long-term participation of individuals in the labour market, and require a collaborative approach between government, industry, employers, training providers and the community. Employment strategies are, on the other hand, tailored to the business needs of individual organisations and employers and generally focus on attracting and retaining employees in that organisation.
An Indigenous workforce strategy establishes the framework to build a skilled and work-ready Indigenous workforce in demand areas. We know that Indigenous employment in the mainstream economy is generally expected to increase in line with increases in economic activity, but this depends on a range of factors including employer demand and labour supply. An Indigenous workforce strategy can address some of the impediments to Indigenous employment.
The four key components of developing an Indigenous workforce strategy are:
knowing the terrain
developing the Indigenous labour supply
growing demand for Indigenous labour
supporting Indigenous enterprise.
a. Knowing the terrain
In developing an Indigenous workforce strategy it is important to understand the current opportunities and impediments to a sustainable Indigenous workforce in the target industries, regions or sectors.
In order to understand these, you will likely need to consider the current and projected labour supply and demand factors in the target industries, jurisdictions, regions or sectors, the features of the relevant local Indigenous community and the current organisations and government agencies working in those local communities.
This part of an Indigenous workforce strategy can be done prior to the development and negotiation of a national partnership agreement and/or it can be built into the agreement itself. If it is built into the agreement, then the agreement will need to articulate who will be responsible for this element of the strategy.
Questions to consider are:
What are the demographics in the target regions/jurisdictions (for example total population, ages and genders of potential workforce)?
What are the projected demographics over the next five years?
What are the labour mobility trends in your target industries, regions, jurisdictions or sectors?
What is the breakdown of skill and educational levels of the current population and what are their projections?
What are the current and projected skill and education levels for your target industries, regions, jurisdictions or sectors?
Are there any current or projected skills gaps and are they being addressed?
In addition to identifying current and projected labour supply and demand, an understanding of the particular strengths and opportunities for Indigenous employment in the target industries, sectors, regions or jurisdictions is important:
Are there existing targets for Indigenous employment in the industries, sectors, regions or jurisdictions?
How many Indigenous employees are currently working in the target industries, sectors, regions or jurisdictions?
What is the quality of the relationship between the target industries or sectors and local Indigenous communities?
Are initiatives, support services and programs already in place to recruit, retain and train Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees? What can be learned from these initiatives?
What needs to be done to improve cross-cultural awareness?
An understanding of the local Indigenous community is also recommended:
What are the locations, age profile and number of unemployed in the community?
Who are the local Indigenous leaders and traditional elders?
What are the main concerns of the local Indigenous organisations?
Which organisations or government agencies work with these Indigenous communities?
Which local businesses and suppliers are Indigenous-owned?
Which high schools, TAFEs and higher education providers have high numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the area?
Once there is an understanding of the opportunities and barriers to Indigenous employment in the target area, relevant Indigenous employment and participation outcomes and strategies can be established. The strategies should aim to develop an Indigenous labour supply, grow demand for Indigenous labour, and support Indigenous enterprise.
Diagram showing objectives and strategies of an Indigenous workforce strategy
b. Developing an Indigenous labour supply
Building an Indigenous labour supply requires skills development, education and training, and improving labour market participation. When developing an Indigenous workforce strategy, consider how an Indigenous labour supply can be supported through:
increasing the skills and work capacity of the current and future Indigenous workforce through opportunities to acquire recognised and accredited mainstream qualifications
engaging and encouraging Indigenous Australians to maximise their opportunities to participate in, secure and retain employment
developing articulated training and employment pathways for Indigenous Australians interested in working in the target industry, sector or region
encouraging the development of positive and inclusive workplace environments
developing best practice guidelines on targeted initiatives to improve Indigenous employment in specific regions, industries or sectors
encouraging training, education and employment services providers to respond to Indigenous and industry requirements and establish appropriate pathways to employment
effective mentoring models and career advice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and employees
building effective pathways from school to higher education to improve the representation of Indigenous Australians in tertiary education and professional occupations
building the work ethic, aspirations and desire of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to enter and participate in the workforce
identifying and reducing disincentives for Indigenous Australians to gain and retain employment.
c. Growing demand for Indigenous labour
Industry and business demand for Indigenous labour can be built through:
engaging and enabling employers to employ more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers
improving retention and career development of Indigenous Australians in the workforce
communicating a clear business case for employing Indigenous Australians
highlighting the value, skills and availability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, including through publication of ‘good news’ stories and initiatives
demonstrating how being an employer of choice for Indigenous Australians can improve business outcomes and workplace diversity
encouraging and facilitating cross-cultural awareness training for non-Indigenous business and their employees
fostering more direct linkages between employers and Indigenous Australians
fostering Indigenous participation in the delivery of government services, with particular emphasis on delivery of services to Indigenous communities
developing succession plans for retention and career development for Indigenous employees
employing flexible human resource practices to encourage cultural diversity.
d. Supporting Indigenous enterprise
Supporting Indigenous enterprises is part of the Australian Government’s commitment to improve Indigenous economic participation. For this reason, supporting Indigenous enterprise forms the third component in an Indigenous workforce strategy. Methods to support Indigenous enterprise include:
partnering and establishing commercial relationships with Indigenous businesses when sourcing goods and services
developing a network of Indigenous businesses to encourage information exchange and partnerships
assisting Indigenous enterprises to make the most of existing programs, initiatives and support
equipping Indigenous entrepreneurs with the required business management and technical skills
designing tender processes and contracts that support and encourage the use of Indigenous suppliers.
Implementation of the Indigenous workforce strategy should be overseen through an established governance structure. The agreement should articulate who will be responsible for establishing the governance structure.
The governance structure for the workforce strategy could include an implementation council, working group or committee representatives from key stakeholders including:
Indigenous communities and organisations
Job Services Australia providers
industry, business and employer groups
relevant government agencies at both the state/territory and local government levels
the education sector (high schools, registered training organisations and higher education providers).
3. Identifying when an Indigenous workforce strategy is appropriate
The Indigenous workforce strategy principle should be applied to all relevant national partnership agreements. It is not limited to those agreements that directly relate to Indigenous Australians. Relevant national partnership agreements could include those that incorporate workforce development or growth measures, or procurement or provision of a service. Examples include:
construction and infrastructure projects including refurbishments and maintenance
early childhood workforce development measures
education and training workforce development measures
health workforce development measures.
In particular, portfolio agencies should consider incorporating the Indigenous workforce strategy in national partnership agreements that would lead to a significant contribution to the Closing the Gap targets. In making these assessments agencies may determine that it is impractical for national partnerships which are of small financial commitment and/or have short time frames to include an Indigenous workforce strategy.
Commonwealth, state and territory agencies should consider whether the national partnership agreement they are developing should include an Indigenous workforce strategy. In addition the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Commonwealth Treasury may refer relevant national partnership agreements to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). DEEWR will then contact the Australian Government agency with policy responsibility for the national partnership agreement and provide guidance on how an Indigenous workforce strategy could be incorporated in a new national partnership agreement.
Before developing a new Indigenous workforce strategy, agencies should consider whether there is scope for leveraging any current Indigenous workforce strategies that already operate in their jurisdiction.
4. The process for incorporating an Indigenous workforce strategy into agreements
Commonwealth and state and territory governments are to work together to include the workforce principle into all relevant new national partnership agreements and, where relevant, in related implementation plans.
The Ministerial Council for Federal Financial Relations website contains templates for national partnership agreements and implementation plans. The provision to include an Indigenous workforce strategy is included in the National Partnership and Implementation Plan template as a requirement that drafters need to take into account when preparing new national partnerships: http://www.federalfinancialrelations.gov.au/content/guidelines_for_new_nps.aspx).
Following approval of the proposal for a new agreement, consultation on the policy and program design can commence between the relevant Commonwealth and state portfolio agencies and with other affected parties. Should the agencies negotiating the agreement deem that embedding an Indigenous workforce strategy would be appropriate the relevant Australian Government agency should contact DEEWR for advice (email@example.com).
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet or Treasury may also notify DEEWR that a national partnership is currently being drafted that has potential for an Indigenous workforce strategy and provide DEEWR with contact details. In this case, DEEWR will contact the relevant Commonwealth agency to discuss the possibility of including an Indigenous workforce strategy in the agreement and provide advice and input as to how to include the strategy.
The Commonwealth and state portfolio agencies managing the overall development of the national partnership agreement will lead the negotiations. While DEEWR can provide advice and input in relation to embedding an Indigenous workforce strategy into the agreement, final decision making on what is included in the agreement and any subsequent implementation plans is the responsibility of the Commonwealth and state agencies negotiating the agreement.
Case study: National Partnership Agreement on the East Kimberley Development Package (EKDP)
The National Partnership Agreement on the East Kimberley Development Package (EKDP), between the Australian and Western Australian (WA) Governments, provides a $195 million investment in social and common use infrastructure to enable social and economic development, address social inclusion and respond to Indigenous disadvantage in the region. The Australian Government investments target priority development needs in the areas of health, education, housing, transport and community infrastructure. The EKDP also commits the Australian and WA Governments to developing a location-specific Indigenous workforce implementation plan to create training and job pathways.
The EKDP Indigenous Workforce Plan (the Plan) was developed through close collaboration between local employment, training and Indigenous organisations, the WA Government and Australian Government departments. The Plan articulates strategies to optimise training and employment opportunities that include:
requirements for contractors for projects to demonstrate credentials in, and plans for, employing Indigenous Australians on projects
an apprenticeship program for up to 20 apprentices in high-demand trades
mentoring support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.
The WA Government and other project funding recipients will report on Indigenous employment outcomes by occupation, the type and number of jobs created through the EKDP projects, as well as full/part-time status and length of employment. Continued local consultation and coordination will be supported by the EKDP Indigenous Workforce Coordination Group, which is made up of Job Services Australia providers, CDEP providers, Indigenous corporations, local business interests, local government, education and training providers as well as government representatives.
For more information see http://www.federalfinancialrelations.gov.au/content/national_partnership_agreements/infrastructure.aspx and http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/regional/ona/ekdp.aspx.
5. Including an Indigenous workforce strategy in a national partnership agreement
For the purpose of incorporating an Indigenous workforce strategy, the relevant parts of a national partnership agreement are:
objectives, outcomes and outputs
roles and responsibilities
performance benchmarks and indicators
This part provides an opportunity for the parties to enunciate the role envisaged in the agreement for the Indigenous workforce strategy. For example, the EKDP Agreement notes that:
Implementation under this Agreement will be undertaken in accordance with elements 2 and 3 of the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Participation which strengthen government procurement policies and Indigenous workforce strategies to maximise Indigenous employment in large construction and infrastructure projects.
b. Objectives, outcomes and outputs
This part sets out the mutually agreed aspirations of the agreement, describes the specific goals or impacts of the actions under the agreement and sets out specific outputs. If an agreement has incorporated an Indigenous workforce strategy, this part will provide an opportunity to specify the relevant aspirations, goals and deliverables against the strategy.
For example, the objectives of the EKDP Agreement state:
Through this Agreement, the parties commit to working together to support nation building and economic stimulus objectives while addressing social and economic disadvantage in the East Kimberley region through investment in social and common use infrastructure while promoting meaningful and sustainable jobs and training for local Indigenous people.
And the outcomes state:
Address the issue of social inclusion, including responding to Indigenous disadvantage by implementing an Indigenous workforce strategy to create job and training pathways for Indigenous Australians.
c. Roles and responsibilities
Governments are jointly responsible for incorporating Indigenous workforce principles into delivery of government services along with working together to link education, training, and support to maximise Indigenous participation and career progression.
This part provides a clear statement of the role of each jurisdiction and the responsibilities for which they undertake to be accountable, including in relation to expectations for implementing and reporting on an Indigenous workforce strategy.
This section of the agreement should clearly articulate what role each of the parties will play in relation to developing, implementing, evaluating and reporting on the Indigenous workforce strategy.
In addition, it should also identify the governance structure and who will be responsible for establishing this.
The EKDP Agreement, for example, specifies the responsibilities for each party in relation to developing an Indigenous workforce implementation plan. These include requirements for developing a location-specific Indigenous workforce implementation plan which may include accredited qualifications and training pathways for Indigenous people in the region, partnerships between employers, local government, communities and service providers and engagement with employers contracted to advise them of changes to government procurement policies.
d. Performance benchmarks and indicators
The National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA) (http://www.federalfinancialrelations.gov.au/content/national_agreements.aspx ) identifies a number of Indigenous specific performance indicators to measure progress towards Closing the Gap targets, including employment. Agencies can refer to the NIRA performance indicators when deciding what performance indicator(s) to use for the Indigenous workforce strategy, however there is no obligation to use the NIRA indicators. The performance indicator(s) must be proportionate to the size of the agreement and relevant to the agreement. That is, they should match what is outlined in the objectives, outcomes and outputs. Measures of the number of Indigenous Australians employed is considered a key indicator.
Timed – specify a timeframe for achievement (Australian National Audit Office, 2004, Better Practice Guide: Better Practice in Annual Performance Reporting, p 13, available at www.anao.gov.au/uploads/documents/Better_Practice_in_Annual_Performance_Reporting.pdf)
The EKDP Agreement has included a progress measure on Indigenous employment outcomes by occupation, full/part-time status and length of employment.
Another example is the National Partnership Agreement for Remote Indigenous Housing which includes the following performance benchmark and indicator:
Employment and training
Number of local housing related jobs created for Indigenous Australians
20 per cent local Indigenous employment
(NT SIHIP, 2008)
20 per cent local employment to be included as part of procurement requirement for new housing construction
Under the IEPNP, DEEWR is responsible for reporting to COAG on which national partnership agreements have incorporated an Indigenous workforce strategy.
Reporting requirements related to an Indigenous workforce strategy should be specified in the national partnership agreement, and jurisdictions should report on progress against the Indigenous workforce strategy to the Australian Government department with portfolio responsibility for the agreement.
Halving the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade will involve a fundamental change to the way governments do business. COAG has recognised that strategies to improve Indigenous workforce participation and engagement need to be incorporated into major reforms and initiatives to leverage government investment.
An Indigenous workforce strategy will assist target industries, sectors or regions to raise Indigenous skill levels and address employment barriers, stimulate Indigenous enterprise, build capacity and identify and share good practice. This guide has introduced the key components of an Indigenous workforce strategy and outlined how to incorporate the strategy into a national partnership agreement.
Existing national partnership agreements and/or their accompanying implementation plans that have an Indigenous workforce strategy include:
The East Kimberley Development Package
Improving Teacher Quality
Remote Indigenous Housing
Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care
Copies of signed national partnership agreements are available at http://www.federalfinancialrelations.gov.au/content/national_partnership_agreements/default.aspx
7. Further information
For assistance in developing an Indigenous workforce strategy, meeting reporting requirements or general enquiries on the guide, please contact the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations at IEPNP@deewr.gov.au
The Brokering Successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Outcomes: Common Themes in Good-Practice Models report is a useful guide to success for organisations working towards Indigenous employment; it is available at www.policypointers.org/Page/View/9080
Job Services Australia (JSA) providers have links with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander job seekers and employees. Developing partnerships with these providers is an important element in an Indigenous workforce strategy. JSA providers can also assist with funding for training and equipment, and mentoring and support. Information about Job Services Australia is available at www.deewr.gov.au/jobservicesaustralia
The Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council Limited (AIMSC) facilitates the integration of Indigenous businesses into the supply chain of private sector corporations and government institutions and advocates on behalf of the Indigenous business community: fostering partnerships, exchanging information, conducting research and leading the integration of Indigenous businesses into the Australian economy. Further information about AIMSC can be found at www.aimsc.org.au
Reconciliation Australia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation established in 2000. It is the peak national organisation building and promoting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians for the wellbeing of the nation. For more information visit www.reconciliation.org.au
The following websites may also be useful:
Australian Apprenticeship Access Program
Making Indigenous Australian Apprenticeships your Business Resource Kit
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The Australian Government, its employees, officers and agents do not accept any liability of the results of any action taken in reliance upon, based on or in connection with this document. To the extent legally possible, the Australian Government, its employees, officers and agents, disclaim all liability arising by reason of any breach of any duty in tort (including negligence and negligent misstatement) or as a result of any errors and omissions contained in this document.
For further information visit www.deewr.gov.au/iepnp