Employment and Economic Participation

Local government is well placed to support Aboriginal employment and economic participation opportunities – they are a place-based employer offering diverse employment opportunities, and have an important role to play in supporting and stimulating their local economy.

Many Aboriginal people and communities throughout Victoria have achieved economic success in a range of areas – as employees, small business operators and as leaders of larger scale business activities. They bring strong benefits to local, regional and the state economy. For complex reasons, however, some people continue to struggle.

Local government is a major local employer and purchaser of goods and services, and an influential partner in urban and regional economies. It has the capacity to contribute to Aboriginal employment and economic participation outcomes.

According to the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government, employing more Aboriginal people in local government makes good business sense. By building diversity councils can improve policies and service delivery, and by becoming an employer of choice for Aboriginal people, can help improve community cohesion (Read more – download the National Local Government Indigenous Employment Position Paper (2012).

Local government can be an employer of choice for Aboriginal people where culturally inclusive and welcoming workplaces have been developed. Local governments that value and embrace the contribution of Aboriginal people, both within their organisation and the wider community, will be more likely to attract and retain Aboriginal employees and be connected to Aboriginal businesses.

Councils can support Aboriginal economic participation through their procurement policies and processes, by purchasing goods and services from Aboriginal owned and operated businesses (see Aboriginal Procurement). The 2012 Victorian Local Government Aboriginal Engagement and Reconciliation Survey found that the rates of Indigenous employment in local government are very low and there is significant potential for improvement in this area. 

employment graph

The survey found that:

  • There were at least 76 known Aboriginal employees compared to 37 in 2001. Thirty-nine of these were full time employees, 12 were part time, 10 were trainees and six were casual or contract staff.  The tenure of nine employees was not reported.
  • Fifteen councils (30%) collect data on the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background of employees.
  • Community Development was the area with the largest number of Aboriginal employees. Indigenous people were also employed in Arts and Culture, Human Services, Infrastructure, Planning and Social Planning areas.
  • 29 councils (39%) actively encourage Aboriginal employment, through their general employment strategies and/or an Aboriginal specific strategy.