Each and every one of us brings a unique set of experiences and perspectives to the Transport cluster, which is why we want and need more Aboriginal people making a contribution at all levels.
We’re aiming to have 1.3 per cent Aboriginal representation across all roles. That’s important in terms of keeping ourselves accountable but what’s more important is creating the right culture and opportunities for Aboriginal people.
There’s a fair way to go before we can say we’ve got it right, but progress is being made and it’s insight from the Aboriginal community that is helping us head in the right direction.
Changing the face of Transport
When Kristen McKendry set out to increase the number of Aboriginal Transport Officers she was the first to admit she had no idea how to go about it.
“Transport Officers are the face of our organisation at Sydney Trains and we want the team to be as diverse as the customers we serve, but up until February this year we had no Aboriginal Transport Officers,” Kristen said.
“Obviously something wasn’t working so we got together with our Transport for NSW Business Partner to see what we could do differently.
“They helped us partner with Yarn’n, an employment agency that’s owned and operated by Aboriginal people.
“Yarn’n helped us build the ‘Coz our people matter’ recruitment campaign and connected us directly with the Aboriginal community to get the word out.
“They also showed us that our recruitment process wasn’t allowing Aboriginal people who were a good fit the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and capabilities.
“Once we changed our approach including things like a verbal application process, meet and greet sessions for candidates, and group interviews, it took just seven weeks to find and appoint 10 Aboriginal people who met all the selection and assessment criteria,” Kristen said.
Partnering up, opening doors
Each year, Roads and Maritime takes on apprentices and trainees to be part of maintenance operations right across NSW, from Bega to Broken Hill and Grafton to Nowra.
While Aboriginal people make up a relatively large proportion of the communities in these areas, not many young Aboriginal people were making it into the apprentice and trainee programs.
To change things, Roads and Maritime partnered with the Transport for NSW Workforce Selection and Supply team, along with Aboriginal employment agency Yarn’n to get a better outcome.
Transport for NSW HR Consultant, Bethany Lee, said it started with a simple commitment to employing more Aboriginal people.
“We have set aside a number of positions to be filled by Aboriginal people,” she said.
“The biggest change was in our testing process which we made much more personal and less formal.
We then worked with Yarn’n who got in touch with local Aboriginal Land Councils and tapped into community networks to attract and support Aboriginal applicants. We found and appointed 16 Aboriginal people who are now on the road to a career in the Transport cluster,” she said.
Darcie Holmes-Smith, a construction apprentice from the Western region, chose the program as she wanted to take a different path.
“I didn’t really see year 11 and 12 as a choice for me, as I didn’t want to go to university. I thought the apprentice program was a good opportunity.
“It’s been really enjoyable, I love it and I love working outdoors. I’d like to aspire to be a supervisor, as three of my supervisors have shown me it’s a great job.”
A community within Transport
Much of the work we’re doing to make the Transport cluster a more welcoming and respectful place is based on regular feedback from Transport’s own Aboriginal community.
These employees play an important role in sharing knowledge and experiences, encouraging others to participate and supporting Transport’s Aboriginal employment campaigns.
In May this year, the community got together at the second annual Transport Aboriginal Forum to discuss progress in a number of areas including improving recruitment, cultural education, mentoring and other development programs. We’ve also launched an online space where this group can come together, share ideas and get information and resources.
Check out the video to see all the highlights from the Transport Aboriginal Staff Forum.