My Success: An exploratory study of positive experiences in the working lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Darwin

McRae-Williams, Eva (2012) My Success: An exploratory study of positive experiences in the working lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Darwin. Project Report. NA. (Unpublished)

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Studies in the field of Australian Indigenous employment tend to focus on issues of ‘unemployment’, and from this position, examine barriers to employment. Yet, there is much to learn from exploring the positive experiences and perspectives of employed Australian Indigenous people when developing strategies aimed at improving the recruitment and retention of this population within the formal labour market. This exploratory study aimed to investigate factors that contributed to positive work experiences and understandings of success for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in Darwin’s urban labour market. This focus was taken in order to move away from the generation of knowledge that stems from a deficit model to one that values and utilises the knowledge of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people who (i) participate in employment, and (ii) are viewed as successful both in terms of being in employment (not unemployed) and from the perspective of their own self-evaluation. A recognised need for more research exploring the work aspirations and experiences of urban and regional Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander populations was the rationale for focusing on Darwin as the location of this study. The guiding questions for this exploratory research project included:
•What contributes to and constitutes work success for Indigenous people?
•What innovative employment behaviours, values and strategies do Indigenous people adopt during their work experiences and how do workplace practices impede or support these?
•How can employers contribute to Indigenous peoples’ success in work?

Fifty employed Indigenous people from the Darwin region were recruited and shared their perspectives on their employment experiences through participation in a short online survey.

From their own perspective, participants confirmed that employment initiatives aimed at increasing: training/professional development and career pathway opportunities; access to mentors; the cultural awareness of non-Indigenous employees; identified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander positions; and tailored support mechanisms, were all associated with positive work experiences and understood as facilitating success. Importantly, they also provided new insight into the relevance of mutual cross-cultural awareness journeys framed by the building of personal relationships within the workplace. This study has indicated that by adopting a strength-based perspective a new discourse around Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employment can be provided. Rather than creating a negative picture of deficits and insufficiencies, this study has presented a story of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employees committed to employment, and their strong and proactive work motivations, values, behaviours, problem solving and coping strategies.

Participants reported that they valued spaces and opportunities for ‘getting to know one another’ and the process of relationship building between Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees and management. Positive personal relationships within employment environments contributed to a framework where Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employees could better utilize the innovative employment strategies and behaviours which supported their success. In environments that were felt to be ‘socially comfortable’ they reported that they were able to ask questions, seek advice, try new things and subsequently engage in positive employment experiences.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Field of Research (2008): 15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150305 Human Resources Management
20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200201 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2013 06:52
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2013 06:52

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