About the symposium

First Nations People’s experiences of the labour and employment markets have primarily been narrated through non-First Nations voices, often during election cycles and further complicated by diversity, inclusion and human resource sector practices and attitudes imposed upon First Nations Peoples.

Approaches are adopted as policy and practice based on attitudes, practices and policies imposed upon First Nations Peoples rather than allowing us to self-determine our future of work based on our own experiences.

The Symposium formally launched the Alliance, listened to mob and established a work plan and strategy to explore the future of First Nations employment that is First Nations-led and implemented.

To date, a raft of government and corporate efforts rely on assumptions to impose Western employment paradigms on First Nations Peoples. These efforts fail to acknowledge the history of employment exclusion in Australia, the diversity of First Nations People and the considerable longstanding and current impacts of racism, both in the broader community where it impacts workforce participation (e.g. education) as well as the systemic and covert racism in workplaces.

The people behind the symposium

We are a collective of highly experienced peak bodies, practitioners, consultants, unions, academics and community organisations collaborating in a new policy environment around work and workplaces to lead and achieve positive outcomes for First Nations Peoples at work.

We share the principles of listening deeply to our fellow First Nations People, creating a joint narrative of experiences and self-determining our future to achieve localised success for mob across the country.

Our seven goals

We have developed seven shared goals for this new policy environment.

  1. An investigation into workplace racism and discrimination (systemic and covert) against First Nations people heard through a series of public activities and inquiries. These will culminate in a multi-legal approach Workplace Racism Inquiry conducted by the Fair Work Commission and Human Rights Commission with recommendations.
  2. Inquiry into First Nations Pay Equity and mechanism/s including superannuation with recommendations and mechanisms to resolve inequalities in the Australian retirement system.
  3. The redevelopment of self-determined, properly resourced community employment programs, such as the CDP, to ensure proper wages for work and work-like activities. Community employment programs must provide proper workplace conditions, leave, super, access to workers compensation and Workcover, investment into meaningful jobs on country, programs leading to sustainable full-time or part-time employment, and meaningful community input and control. These elements must include meaningful work, including cultural and unpaid labour and care, and cultural caring for land and country, skills and training. Employment programs must lead to employment outcomes, no community employment program should do work-like activities, unpaid or paid for long periods of time.
  4. At this time when we consider the role of First Nations people in this place and a possible treaty, we must address the insertion of Cultural matters into industrial instruments and employment legal frameworks.
  5. Consideration of community responsibility, care and caring for land and country redefined as ‘work’ in the Australian work paradigm.
  6. The Government should realign portfolios, currently sitting in the National Indigenous Australians Agency, to the corresponding (mainstream) Minister to ensure First Nations employment, training & skills, education, economic participation & job creation are considered across the economic & policy making platforms of the Government.
  7. A workplace relations system that reflects our community’s needs. A system that ensures stolen wages are returned quickly, and a system that is local and accessible. Our workplace relations system cannot be a one size fits all. It must be flexible and allow mob to make collective agreements that reflect our needs and our communities. First Nations organisations need to be able to make agreements that cover multiple organisations to suit our needs and there should be no restrictions on what can be included in these agreements.
We seek a commitment from all levels of government to develop deep dialogue regarding the approaches toward First Nations Peoples. This commitment needs to address wages and conditions as well as benefits and employment across Australia and must do so across the policy, legal and bargaining processes. This will include developing positive, First Nations-led and data-informed policy development across the workplace community.