Reflections on Indigenous Recruitment in NAIDOC Week

When I reflect on my own career journey, I could not have imagined myself in this role. As a Murri high school kid from the north side of Brisbane, I had no clue what I wanted to do when I grew up. A lot of my family worked in Aboriginal organisations, health, education and the public service. No one I knew or could relate to had worked in large corporate organisations.

Here at KPMG we have been on a long journey to attract and develop exceptional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander talent. We have faced some challenges along the way and have not always got it right. However, by listening to and learning from the KPMG Indigenous Network, our peers within the Elevate RAP Community, and working closely with a wide range of stakeholders within the firm, we are on an exciting trajectory.

Holly with painting by Indigenous artist Murdie Nampijinpa Morris – Malikijarra Jukurrpa

I think it is important to note, that issues experienced by organisations in attracting and retaining Indigenous talent is primarily a structural one. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees absolutely have the skills and tenacity to thrive in corporate Australia, and it is up to organisations to recognise and address the barriers they are placing in front of them.

I’ve had the benefit of learning from friends, peers, community and family through much of my career. So today I’d like to share some of the key drivers and considerations KPMG has prioritised to connect with Indigenous talent, as well as some questions and points for organisations with similar aspirations to consider as you develop your own strategies:

Connect with and support Indigenous candidates, organisations and communities and building ongoing, genuine and reciprocal relationships.

Branding and messaging. Does your offering speak to Indigenous people in a way that accurately defines your employee value proposition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates?

Education and accountability. Does your talent team, hiring managers, senior leadership and wider organisation understand and value the history and experiences of Indigenous candidates?  Do you have a strategy around building a culturally capable and safe workplace for Indigenous colleagues? If not, this is an integral point to address to retain Indigenous colleagues once they are in the business

Who in your organisation is responsible for ensuring Indigenous talent is being identified and brought into the business and supported and developed? At KPMG this is everyone’s responsibility, from the Talent Team, through to Hiring Managers and teams, Partners and through to senior leadership. Whilst Indigenous employment specialists play an important role, the decision makers and leaders who are committed to building inclusive workplaces representative of the communities in which we live and work are the people who ultimately make this happen.

Systems. Are your recruitment and onboarding systems a barrier for Indigenous candidates? Is there a personal touchpoint and connection for candidates, or are you solely relying on AI? (which in my experience often discriminates against Indigenous candidates.) How does your internal promotions process address any potential bias in decision making?

Networks of support and real and relatable role models for Indigenous staff are key. The corporate world often operates at a different pace and in different ways than our families and communities do. Having people in your internal professional network who understand this is invaluable. It is important for organisations to cultivate, support and appropriately resource networks that are safe spaces for Indigenous colleagues to share and connect. Some Indigenous people are the first in their family to be embarking on a career in the corporate sector, so having real and relatable role models within leadership who look like us and who have similar lived experience shows us there is a pathway in corporate Australia for us.

I would like to shout out to all of my Indigenous colleagues working within the corporate sector. The journey is not always an easy one, many of us have to pull on our determination and patience to succeed in a system that was not designed by or for us – but we are still excelling!

In my time at KPMG I’ve witnessed Indigenous colleagues progress into leadership roles, undertake postgraduate studies, buy homes, working with large and high profile organisations on some of the most important projects in the country, all while participating in and giving back to their respective communities wherever they can. The benefits that come with working in the corporate world are some of the enablers that will address the socio-economic disadvantage that Indigenous people have experienced since colonisation.

And on a final and most important note, I’d like to thank and pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders: those who blazed the trails and refused to accept no for an answer. If it wasn’t for our Nans, Pops, Aunties and Uncles who fought for our right to access higher education, fair pay and equal rights, none of us would be enjoying the success, opportunities and self-determination that many of us enjoy today.

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