Issue Two:

Aboriginal Employment Strategy

The Aboriginal Employment Strategy (AES) is a not-for-profit Aboriginal organisation and charity. It is Supply Nation registered. Since its formation in 1997, it has placed at least 25,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people all over Australia into jobs across a range of different industries and sectors. The AES also employs over 80 full-time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The AES understands that maintaining successful employment is about more than just finding and keeping a job. Especially within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, there are many intertwining factors influencing a person’s life which may impact on their ability to work, such as housing, mental health, physical health, family relationships, finances, education, work experience, and so on. The AES is committed to supporting the career seeker at any point in their life, whether they are job-ready or not.

Part of the success of the AES’s methods can be attributed to the holistic approach they take when supporting their career seekers, which includes practical, emotional and cultural support extending beyond pre-employment readiness training. This support can include making referrals to counselling, housing providers, legal services, or any other service depending on the individual’s needs. The mentoring process during employment includes engaging with both employer and employee. The career seeker is mentored through their employment regularly for the first 26 weeks through face-to-face or phone support, and then on a need basis after the first 6 months. This support is based in culturally safe practices which serve the dual purpose of supporting the career seeker and educating the employer. The mentor can work with the employer and employee to examine any underlying causes and develop a strategy to resolve the issue.

Another key aspect underpinning the success of the AES in providing meaningful opportunities and nurturing the growth of career seekers is its person-centred approach. The mentoring process is not only about discovering what the person’s skills are and matching them with a suitable job; there may be career seekers who need other issues addressed so they can successfully maintain employment at an organisation. For example, during the pre-employment period, mentors working with individuals and their training company can work through any issues that might arise; it is not necessarily about resolving issues, rather about stabilising them. And having a career mentor who intimately understands and resonates with the career seeker’s culture, family dynamics, and life circumstances increases the career seeker’s chance of maintaining meaningful employment. Working with the career seekers to identify and achieve personal goals, as well as building their skills and capabilities in various areas, creates more resilient individuals, and through that, more cohesive communities.

The AES also engages with the community, which can be seen in many ways. This can include organising community events and functions, contacting members of the community to see how they can support each other, and guiding organisations in refining their own business processes to achieve better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. For example, the AES is working with the two-year Multiplex project at Westmead Hospital; they have already placed 144 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into full-time roles, and the retention rate 6 months into employment was at 90%. There have been a great deal of social outcomes and economic opportunities that have come out of this project. Long-term relationships and career pathways have begun to form, which has paved the way for future career seekers looking to enter employment with them. The intention is to gather lead agencies together to drive innovation through their current knowledge paired with the knowledge they will gain from this project.

Good news story

One particular success story comes from Marion, who has been supported by AES for the past two years. The AES has assisted Marion to obtain full time employment against all the odds. She was facing many complex barriers in her life including substance addition, severe family breakdown, mental health issues, disadvantage across many socio-economic indicators and was facing some legal issues.

In the past two years, the AES has assisted Marion to obtain full-time employment while participating in support meetings for her addiction and receiving specialist support for her mental health. The AES and her employer have worked hard to ensure that all workplace issues, which previously may have caused a threat to her employment and overall progress, were quickly and efficiently dealt with. Her employer is extremely happy with her progress as she continues to develop a broader capacity in her work and is building a career path for herself, improving the quality of life for her and her family.

As of June 2022, Marion has been successful in regaining custody of all of her children and has remained sober for over 2 years. She has been able to transition to more suitable housing from a small unit to a house capable of providing improved living conditions for all of her family. Further, She has successfully gained her driver’s licence and purchased a vehicle and has also progress to a new and higher level role. Marion’s employer is providing regular training in office administration to support Marion’s career aspiration of working in the Administration sector.  During the recent Federal Election campaign, the then Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, spent time with Marion hearing her story and progress whilst watching her hard at work.

On top of continuing her own recovery, Maria also supports her father who has become ill and has moved in with him to support his ongoing care. It’s not always been easy balancing work and life’s challenges; however she is thriving in the workplace and has displayed determination, courage and has positively influenced others that have experienced similar challenges.

Evidence in practice

A holistic approach can be seen as an all-round assessment and delivery of support to a person across a range of areas in their life. The foundations of this approach incorporate a “concern for the growth and full development of the whole person where what is learned reflects the values and goals of the learner” (Burns 1995, as cited in McGrath, 2007). Westernised approaches may have targets or goals prioritising economic achievement, whereas holistic approaches tailored to Indigenous participants will assess each as a whole person and address and support multiple areas of their life simultaneously.

A person-centred approach is an approach that aims to support the person’s own self-management, and helps them to realise their own potential (Eaton, Roberts & Turner, 2015).

References

Aboriginal Employment Strategy. (2022). About AES: History. Available from https://aes.org.au/about-aes/history/

Eaton, S., Roberts, S., & Turner, B. (2015). Delivering person centred care in long term conditions. Available from      https://www.yearofcare.co.uk/sites/default/files/pdfs/Eaton%20BMJ%202015%20Person%20centred%20care%20in%20LTCs.pdf

McGrath, D. L. (2007). Implementing an holistic approach in vocational education and training. Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 47(2), 228-244. Available from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ797580.pdf