Andrew Forrest with Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Andrew Forrest with Prime Minister Tony Abbott. AAP Image - Nikki Short

Indigenous inequality still prevalent in workforce

YESTERDAY was the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, a day focusing on building strong relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

In Australia, in recent years, I'd like to think we've made pretty good progress down the path to cementing those relationships.

However, there still exists a significant inequality between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, with unemployment and workforce participation one of the key issues.

It's an issue mining magnate Andrew Forrest has taken to heart, committing his sizeable resources to removing those disparities.

Last October, the Abbott government took Mr Forrest to task, asking him to review indigenous employment and training. He's since submitted a report, containing a much broader approach to tackling indigenous issues.

Mr Forrest describes indigenous disengagement with the workforce as being at "crisis levels", and has called on politicians to implement the 256-page report in full. He believes it is the only approach that will correct the inequality.

Among the recommendations, the report calls for tax-free status for innovative indigenous business, and reforms to driver licensing to ensure people are able to drive - regardless of outstanding fines or infringements - in order to keep their job.

The Abbott government has yet to commit in full to implementing the recommendations, but that they have been made at all must count as at least some progress.

But inequality extends further into our workforce. Women still earn less than men. The gap is closing, but it's ridiculous that it still exists at all.

In November 2013, the gap stood at 17.1%, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Women are more likely to work part-time than men, and are therefore less likely to hold senior roles, which goes some way to explaining the gap, but historically, female-dominated industries have offered lower wages than male-dominated.

Discrimination sits squarely at the heart of workplace inequality - whether it be based on gender, race, creed or religion. If you believe you've been discriminated against in the workplace, you can take action.

The Fair Work Ombudsman can help people who believe they have been subject to unlawful discrimination in relation to their employment. For more information visit www.fairwork.gov.au.


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