State Plan: Anangu public sector employment

First posted on 29 July 2008 under Employment.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: planning & State Strategic Plan

Summary

In 2004, the State Government announced plans to increase the number of Aboriginal people working in the South Australian public service “to 2% within 5 years.”[i] This target was not met.

In September 2011, the Government extended the timeframe for achieving its “Aboriginal employees” target until 2014.[ii]

Creating more community-based employment opportunities for Anangu could help the State Government reach this target.

In October 2008, the Government advised the Paper Tracker that 55% of the 251 public sector employees based in Oak Valley, Yalata and on the APY Lands identified as Aboriginal.

In October 2010, the Paper Tracker asked the Government for an update on public sector employment in remote Anangu communities.[iii] More than two years later, none of the requested information had been provided.

The Paper Trail

State Plan Target: Aboriginal employees

Around 12% of all working South Australians are employed within the State’s public sector. As such, the sector’s employment practices and processes “can have a direct impact on employment opportunities for under-represented populations.” They can also “be an important role model for the private sector.”[iv]

In 2004, as part of its State Strategic Plan, the South Australian Government established a target to:

increase the percentage of the Aboriginal population in the South Australian public sector from 1.2% to 2% within 5 years.[v]

In January 2007, this target was amended to:

increase the participation of Aboriginal people in the South Australian public sector, spread across all classifications and agencies, to 2% by 2010 and maintain or better those levels through to 2014.[vi]

Explaining this change, the Government said:

The modified target seeks to ensure that Aboriginal employment in the public sector does not occur predominantly in a small number of agencies and that it is not only at lower classification levels.[vii]

The Department of the Premier and Cabinet has primary responsibility for making sure this target is achieved.[viii] On 30 June 2008, the Department’s efforts were scrutinised as part of State Parliament’s Budget Estimates process. On that occasion, the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Jay Weatherill MP) commented:

Aboriginal employment in the public sector has increased from 784 employees-0.9 per cent of the state public sector workforce in 2003-to 1,391 Aboriginal employees, or 1.5 per cent, as of June 2007. That is an increase of 600 new Aboriginal people with jobs in the state public sector …

This year we will continue to develop and promote strategies to train, recruit, retain and promote Aboriginal people within the public sector. Agencies are currently in the process of self-assessing against [a] cultural inclusion framework and will be required to report their findings at the end of this year, at which time a whole of government report will be prepared.[ix]

In July 2010, South Australia’s Strategic Plan Audit Committee reported that:

  • the proportion of state public sector employees who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander had fallen from 1.54% in 2007 to 1.51% in 2008; and
  • it was “unlikely” that this proportion would rise to the targeted 2% by 2010.[x]

In September 2011, the South Australian Government released an updated version of the State Plan.[xi] Within the updated plan, the timeframe for achieving the “Aboriginal employees” target had been extended by four years to 2014.[xii]

This target now reads:

Increase the participation of Aboriginal people in the South Australian public sector, spread across all classifications and agencies, to 2% by 2014 and maintain or better those levels through to 2020.[xiii]

Anangu Public Sector Employees

For more than twenty years, a significant number of the South Australian public sector positions based in remote Anangu communities have been held by local Aboriginal people.

In 1989, of the total 127 State Government employees living on the APY Lands, 76 (60%) were Aboriginal. Of those employees, 65 (85%) were working for the Education Department.[xiv] By 2004, the number of Anangu employed by the Education Department had risen to 102.[xv]

Not all government agencies have been able to maintain or improve the number of Anangu employees over time. In 1989, South Australia Police (SAPOL) employed 21 staff on the APY Lands, 10 of whom (48%) were Aboriginal. As of May 2008, SAPOL had 17 staff based on the Lands, only 6 of whom (35%) were Anangu[xvi]

In October 2008, the Department of the Premier and Cabinet advised the Paper Tracker that:

  • 128 (58%) of the 221 public sector employees based on the APY lands identify as Aboriginal,
  • 9 (43%) of the 21 public sector employees based at Yalata identify as Aboriginal, and
  • 2 (22%) of the 9 public sector employees based at Oak Valley identify as Aboriginal.[xvii]

In October 2010, the Paper Tracker asked the Department for an update on the number and profile of South Australian public employees located in remote Anangu communities, specifically:

  • the total number of public sector employees based in Yalata, Umoona, Oak Valley and on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands,
  • the number of these employees who identify as Aboriginal, and
  • the number of the Aboriginal employees who are employed on a full-time basis.[xviii]

As of 1 December 2011 – and despite numerous follow-up conversations and requests[xix] – the information had not been provided.

On 9 December 2011, the Paper Tracker asked the Chief Executive of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (Mr Jim Hallion) for his assistance in resolving this matter.[xx] More than a year later, a response to this request had not yet been received.

Click here to read a copy of the Paper Tracker’s request (file size 204KB)

On 21 May 2012, the Paper Tracker invited the State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Paul Caica MP) to provide some assistance “to resolve this matter expeditiously.”[xxi]

On 24 May 2012, the Minister’s office advised the Paper Tracker that our correspondence was “receiving attention” and that “a response will be forwarded to you as soon as possible.”[xxii] As of 31 January 2013, a response had not been received.

Anangu-specific targets  

The Paper Tracker acknowledges the importance of increasing the number of Aboriginal people employed in the State’s public sector. In setting a target of 2%, the State Government has endeavoured to ensure that the proportion of public sector employees who identify as Aboriginal is equivalent to the proportion of Aboriginal people in the broader South Australian population.

Given that across South Australia, Aboriginal people are more than three times as likely to be unemployed than non-Aboriginal people,[xxiii] the Paper Tracker believes that the State Government should set more ambitious employment targets for those communities and centres where a higher proportion of Aboriginal people reside.

A precedent for setting more ambitious targets exists in the employment policies of the District Council of Ceduna. Under these policies, the Council aimed “to have the composition of its workforce reflect the high numbers of Aboriginal people living within the District.”[xxiv] In 2006/07, 24.1% of people living in their district were of Aboriginal descent. At that time, Aboriginal staff constituted approximately 22% of the Council’s total workforce.[xxv]

The Paper Tracker recognises that the timeframe for increasing – and sustaining – the number of Anangu employed as public servants may need to extend beyond the timeframe established under the State Strategic Plan (2014 – 2020). That noted, it is important that real and measurable employment targets are set and that progress is tracked over time through the collection of unambiguous data.[xxvi]

The Paper Tracker notes that while the total number of Aboriginal pubic sector employees on the APY Lands did increase – from 76 in 1989 to 93 in 2008 – the overall proportion of public sector employees on the APY Lands who identify as Aboriginal decreased from 60% to 58%.[xxvii]

This article has been archived and will no longer be updated. It will, however, remain accessible online as a source of background information for anyone wishing to undertake further research on this issue. Information included in the article was current at the time it was archived. Keep in mind, however, that Ministerial changes and names of departments, among other things, may have since changed.


[i] Government of South Australia, March 2004, South Australia’s Strategic Plan, p53.

[ii] Government of South Australia. 2011. In a Great State: South Australia’s Strategic Plan 2011, p94.

[iii] McDonald, P. 21 October 2010.  Letter to C. Eccles (DPC).

[iv] Government of South Australia, January 2007, South Australia’s Strategic Plan 2007, p39.

[v] Government of South Australia, March 2004, South Australia’s Strategic Plan, p53.

[vi] Government of South Australia, January 2007, South Australia’s Strategic Plan 2007, p39.

[vii] Government of South Australia, January 2007, South Australia’s Strategic Plan 2007, p62.

[viii] Each of the State Strategic Plan’s targets has been allocated to a specific government agency which then “has responsibility for developing implementation plans and strategies to achieve the target within the given timeframe.”DPC is the lead agency for Target 6.24 (see Government of South Australia, 2008, “South Australia’s Strategic Plan: Lead Agencies,” http://www.saplan.org.au/content/view/88/146/ Accessed 17 July 2008. Also Government of South Australia, 2008, “T6.24- Aboriginal Employees,” State Plan Target Fact Sheet. Available at: http://www.saplan.org.au/content/view/65/109/ Accessed 17 July 2008.).

[ix] Weatherill, J. 30 June 2008, Hansard, Budget Estimates Committee A, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p192-193.

[x] South Australia’s Strategic Plan Audit Committee. July 2010, South Australia’s Strategic Plan: Progress Report 2010, p131.

[xi] Rann, M. 8 September 2011. “Strategic Plan – Shaping our State by choice, not by chance,” media release.

[xii] Government of South Australia. 2011. In a Great State: South Australia’s Strategic Plan 2011, p40.

[xiii] Government of South Australia. 2011. In a Great State: South Australia’s Strategic Plan 2011, p40.

[xiv] On 9 August 1989, 127 South Australian Government employees were resident on the APY Lands, 76 of whom were of Aboriginal descent. 65 Aboriginal people were employed by the Education Department, 10 by South Australia Police and 1 was employed by TAFE (Bannon, J. 26 September 1989, Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p1024).

[xv] Lomax-Smith, J. 20 July 2004, Letter and report provided to the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee.

[xvi] See: Bannon, J. 26 September 1989, Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p1024. Also: Department of the Premier and Cabinet, May 2008, “On the Lands: Update on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands,” p11. Of the six Anangu employed by SAPOL in May 2008, two worked as community constables on a full-time basis, while the other four were part-time Liaison Officers.

[xvii] Wallace, S. October 2008, Letter to Rev P McDonald.

[xviii] McDonald, P. 21 October 2010. Letter to C. Eccles (DPC).

[xix] See: for example: Nicholls, J. 4 January 2011. Email to B. Weis (DPC-AARD), and  Nicholls, J. 15 August 2011. Email to N. Saunders (DPC-AARD).

[xx] McDonald, P. 9 December 2011. Letter to J. Hallion (DPC).

[xxi] McDonald, P. 21 May 2012. Letter to Hon. P. Caica.

[xxii] Kelly, D. 24 May 2012. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald from the Office of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconcilaition.

[xxiii] In 2007, the unemployment rate of Aboriginal people was 16.6% compared with 4.8% for non-Aboriginal people. (see Government of South Australia, 2008, “T1.16 – Aboriginal Unemployment,” State Plan Target Fact Sheet. Available at: http://www.saplan.org.au/content/view/65/109/ Accessed 23 July 2008).

[xxiv] Parliament of South Australia, 2005, Annual Report of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee 2004/2005, pp235, p28.

[xxv] District Council of Ceduna, 2007, Annual Report 2006/07, p3 & p19.

[xxvi] In relation to monitoring employment outcomes on the APY Lands, on 7 December 2007, the Paper Tracker asked the Department for the Premier and Cabinet for information on possible improvements to employment outcomes on the APY Lands. Despite follow-up requests, as of 21 July 2008, the Department has not provided the requested information.

[xxvii] See: Bannon, J. 26 September 1989, Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p1024; Wallace, S. October 2008, Letter to Rev P McDonald.

The Paper Tracker works hard to provide accurate and up-to-date information. We will correct any inaccurate information as soon as it is brought to our attention. Please contact us if you have additional information or can provide us with an update.