The high rate of incarceration of Aboriginal people in Western Australia means that the needs and management of Aboriginal people is part of the core business of the Department. Improving Aboriginal staff representation rates will have a positive impact on offender management and rehabilitation
Recruitment and retention of Aboriginal staff is critical if the Department is to meet its stated objectives of improving offender management and rehabilitation, and of creating a Department that is more responsive and innovative. This is also central to its key objective of reducing recidivism generally and specifically for Aboriginal people.
It is important, too, that the Department’s strategies to improve recruitment and retention promote Aboriginal employment in all areas of the agency including policy, corporate services, and senior management. Aboriginal employees should not be limited to positions that are primarily focused on working with offenders. Increased diversity in the workplace will bring benefits to all staff, and will add innovation and value to business outcomes.
The Department has generally been relatively successful in attracting and recruiting Aboriginal staff. The picture in relation to retention rates is not so positive and this is an area requiring greater attention. There are significant investments involved in the recruitment of staff, not just Aboriginal staff. These costs include the time and money it costs to run recruitment processes and the costs of induction and training, and also on the job training, supervision and mentoring of new employees.
There will always be a rate of separation for new and existing employees, but the data shows that between 2009 and 2015 the overall rate of separation for Aboriginal staff in the Department was 12.7 per cent. This was almost 60 per cent higher than the rate for non-Aboriginal staff (8.0%). In 2015 the separation rate for Aboriginal staff peaked at 20.8 per cent; double that of the public sector average for the same period.
The Department launched its Reconciliation Action Plan 2015-2018 (RAP) in December 2015. The RAP lists a number of actions to address this outcome, including an action to investigate opportunities to increase Aboriginal employment to 7.5 per cent across the Department. The RAP also has a number of other actions and initiatives that aim to improve the Department’s engagement and collaboration with Aboriginal people and to strengthen the cultural competency of the Department and individual staff.
Only time will tell whether the objectives and commitments set out in the RAP come to pass but the opportunity is there and the time is right for change. It is also important that future evaluations of the RAP will be rigorous and publicly reported.