Key points: 

  • Indigenous candidates at a disadvantage 
  • Only a handful of eligible candidates are ever employed by mainstream organisations 
  • Confrontation and questioning of these decisions must be done if anything is to change 

A recent article in The Australian discussed modern day racism: 

The article discussed how most instances of modern “racism” have a borderline quality.  

Take the lack of black representation in English football management. Every decision to reject a black candidate is effortlessly justifiable. Often, the white candidate has a better track record. The chief executive making the decision is not racist. This is a decent person doing their best for the club. 

But now take a step back and look at the cumulative effect of these individually plausible decisions. There are only a handful of black managers in the top four divisions. All these chief executives making borderline judgments have resulted in a conspicuous lack of black managers, not to mention chief executives and board members. 

The same process can be applied to Aboriginal candidates who apply for jobs.  There are usually mainstream candidates who have better CVs and better experience.  The person making the decision is not racist, they are choosing the best person.  However, this selection process means that many qualified Aboriginal people miss out on jobs. 

Recently, Ochre was asked to provide Aboriginal candidates to an organisation that desperately wants to increase the number of Aboriginal people it employs.  Ochre was providing the candidates to an agency who was responsible for the actual hiring.  The 100 positions were entry level and required basic administration skills.  There was a standard questionnaire to be answered as well as the need for security clearances. 

Ochre sourced a substantial number of Aboriginal candidates who met the requirements.  Ultimately only a handful were employed.  This didn’t help Aboriginal people get jobs and it didn’t help the organisation increase its numbers of Aboriginal employees.  As the article above points out, where there is wiggle room, decision makers lean against the black candidate. 

If we are truly to improve the levels of Aboriginal employment, then we have to confront these types of decisions.  If organisations are truly committed to increasing their numbers of Aboriginal employees, they need to ensure that if Aboriginal candidates meet the basic requirements, they ultimately secure the jobs.  There are many qualified Aboriginal candidates out there for many types of jobs.  There will always be a reason to select a mainstream candidate over an Aboriginal candidate.  Organisations need to eliminate the wiggle room by setting targets for recruiters and rewarding them accordingly for making the right decisions.