ACT News

Disabled, indigenous advocates furious as government misses employment targets again

Advocates for equality in the ACT have reacted with disbelief to figures showing the government has missed its diversity hiring targets again, and by a large margin. Less than a third of the projected number of staff were hired.

Representatives of Canberra's Aboriginal and disabled communities have called for new programs to be considered, including the possible introduction of quotas in ACT government departments.

The then Stanhope Labor government launched its respect, equity and diversity framework in December 2010, with the aim of increasing the number of Canberrans from diverse backgrounds in the government workforce by 2015.

However, a year from the framework's end date, the number of diverse residents working for government is still hundreds off the proposed target.

ACT directorates' annual reports show that only 21 of a planned 72 people with disabilities were hired in the past year, making the government 253 people short of its 2015 target.

Additionally, the government only hired 16 people from an Aboriginal background in the past year, well below the intended 58 and leaving them to find 150 people in one year.

ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body chairman Rod Little said the new numbers were not good enough.

"If you commit to something I think you should at least come close to achieving it. If you're missing the target two years in a row, you have to be asking the question, 'How serious are you?'," he said.

Mr Little said he had seen work being done by the ACT government to change the culture inside Canberra's directorates, but it was taking too long.

He said the government should be considering other strategies to improve indigenous participation in the ACT public service and that if the framework was not producing results a conversation needed to be had.

"The main concern for us is [that] while this is taking its time we're not getting people employed and there are consequences of that. That means people are not getting their services, or are missing out in participating economically in society," he said.

Advocacy for Inclusion general manager Christina Ryan said she was starting to question the government's strategies for recruiting people with disabilities.

"They got 30 per cent of their target and their target wasn't even a very big one," she said. "It's one things to be coming up with strategies and programs and language but, excuse me, we need results."

Ms Ryan said the government had to work harder to attract people with disabilities into jobs. At present, they comprise only 2 per cent of the workforce in ACT directorates.

If the targets were not effective in getting people with disabilities into the public service, the government needed to consider quotas, she said. "We need to ask whether quotas will be more effective and make recruitment people sit up and think whether they need to do something about it. Quotas produce outcomes," she said.

Commissioner for Public Administration Bronwen Overton-Clarke said the targets set in the respect, equity and diversity framework were deliberately designed to be challenging.

She said a range of measures had been applied to meet the targets, including identifying designated positions, support and mentoring programs, as well as traineeships and work-experience programs, but she admitted more work needed to be done.

"We need to do more to understand, in a practical way, why directorates are finding it difficult to attract people with a disability, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to jobs," she said.

Ms Overton-Clarke said the government was already reviewing the framework and, as part of that process, it would ask what were the practical barriers to getting people from diverse backgrounds employment in directorates.