Racism in workplaces spotlighted at summit

·2-min read

Eliminating racism in the workplace and securing ongoing employment for Indigenous Australians must be a priority for all organisations, the jobs and skills summit has been told.

A first step is recognising racism as a genuine work health and safety issue, University of Queensland Business School Indigenous engagement director Sharlene Leroy-Dyer said on Thursday.

Dr Leroy-Dyer said Indigenous workers who experience racism and a lack of action to combat it will often leave the workplace.

She told the summit this perpetuates a welfare mentality rather than empowering Indigenous people to take up employment opportunities.

"We would like to see a racism-busting agenda spearheaded by the union movement that ensures responsibility for tackling racism is shared by all: employers, government, business and sector bodies, and the public," Dr Leroy-Dyer said.

"We would like changes to the inherent, unsafe reporting mechanisms around racism (and) changes to recruitment to eliminate racism."

Indigenous women and girls in particular are calling for the right to have a say on workplace reform, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner June Oscar said.

"Their right to be at the table to inform these processes going forward, that are so needed, that will impact and create opportunities," she told the summit.

"No one can do that without (Indigenous women) at the table."

A priority for the Northern Territory government was reducing the rate of unemployment among Indigenous Australians, Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said.

Investments in digital technology would not only provide services for the territory's remote communities but also create employment opportunities, she said.

"A few weeks ago we saw NASA rockets launched from Arnhem Land under the leadership of one of the oldest living cultures ... the possibilities are endless," Ms Fyles told the summit.

Dr Leroy-Dyer said paid cultural leave and cultural clauses in employee agreements and awards should be a priority for the federal government.

She also called for a genuine commitment to improving skills and job prospects in rural and remote areas.

"The time for platitudes is passed, it is now time for action," Dr Leroy-Dyer said.

More than 140 more business, community, union and government representatives are gathered at Parliament House in Canberra to discuss Australia's economic challenges.