copy the linklink copied!Executive Summary

Finding a good job is critical to improve an individual’s overall socio-economic status, but Indigenous Australians face a number of barriers to employment. Indigenous Australians had labour market participation rates 19.9 percentage points lower than the non-Indigenous population in 2016 (57.1% versus 77.0%). The unemployment rate of Indigenous Australians was 18.4%—almost three times higher than the non-Indigenous Australian unemployment rate of 6.8% in 2016.

Through targets established under Closing the Gap, the Australian Government aimed to halve the gap in the employment rate between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 2018. Recent data show that this target has not been achieved and in fact, the gap has increased to 25.2% since 2006. A new draft target will aim for 60% of Indigenous Australians aged 25-64 years to be employed by 2028 – it was 46.6% in 2016.

Innovative ways of working with Indigenous Australians are needed to improve their employment prospects, especially as many work in jobs that are most likely to be impacted by digitalisation and automation in the future. Australia’s network of employment services, jobactive, aims to connect jobseekers, including Indigenous Australians with employers. Indigenous Australians represented 9.5% of the overall jobactive caseload in 2015, whereas in the first quarter of 2019, this has increased to 11.5%. The Indigenous caseload has been rising as non-Indigenous job seekers are leaving the caseload quicker than Indigenous job seekers.

The OECD consulted with a number of local employment and training organisations in the cities of Sydney, New South Wales, and Perth, Western Australia to gain insights into the delivery of employment and skills programmes to Indigenous Australians. A key principle emerging from this case study work is that programmes achieve the best outcomes when they are Indigenous-led and Indigenous centred. This means having culturally competent front-line staff who are either Indigenous or have the relevant capacity and training to assist Indigenous Australians achieve their employment aspirations. While placing people into a job is critical, it is also fundamental to ensure Indigenous Australians have stronger access to pre-employment supports, such as literacy and basic skills training as well as mentoring to prepare for the labour market. Local partnerships between levels of government (e.g. Commonwealth, State, and Territory) and Indigenous Australians can embed community ownership into the delivery of programmes and services. Going forward, the government should consider the following recommendations to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

copy the linklink copied!Building the skills of Indigenous Australians

  • Move Indigenous Australians up the skills ladder: People with higher levels of skills have better labour market outcomes. While more Indigenous Australians are participating in training, the gap in educational attainment between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is 12 percentage points at the diploma level or higher. The Australian Government should continue to encourage employment and training providers to set-up outcomes-based partnerships that deliver skills development programmes which lead to higher-level accredited qualifications for Indigenous Australians.

  • Use high-level apprenticeship programmes to provide on the job training to Indigenous Australians at a higher skills qualification: More can be done to provide information and guidance to young Indigenous Australians about jobs and expected wages through apprenticeships and traineeships. The Australian Government should also explore the potential for higher-level apprenticeship programmes to better link Indigenous Australians to higher education qualifications at the diploma level or above.

  • Embed mentorship into the delivery of employment and training programmes: Mentors are instrumental in establishing trust both to help place Indigenous Australians into jobs but also to strengthen employee-employer relations. Mentoring is especially important within the workplace to sustain employment over the long term and encourage career and job mobility among Indigenous Australians.

copy the linklink copied!Connecting Indigenous Australians to jobs

  • Promote place-based employment programmes that advance Indigenous self-determination and empowerment: Opportunities for place-based employment programmes should be considered within the new employment services framework as a way of creating one-stop services that connect employment, training, housing, and other social supports in a given community. It is critical to test new approaches to Indigenous employment services that are co-designed with Indigenous Australians to foster community ownership.

  • Strengthen the capacity of providers to deliver Indigenous-centred employment programmes: Ensuring that providers are culturally competent is critical to the delivery of programmes. While some initiatives are already in place such as the National Indigenous Employment Forum, the government should continue working with the employment services sector to build its front-line service capacity to match Indigenous Australians to good jobs.

  • Work with employers to promote cross-cultural training: A culturally aware workplace free from racism will improve Indigenous employment over the long-term. The government can work with the private sector to identify employers that are adopting good human resources practices. These practices could be shared with other firms to help replicate them in other workplaces.

  • Enhance access to pre-employment supports to encourage a sustainable job match: Face-to-face services and comprehensive individual case management strategies are critical in removing the complex and multi-faceted barriers to employment for Indigenous Australians. The new employment services model should ensure on a strong focus on these service delivery principles.

  • Promote stronger local partnerships by reducing administrative burden: The government could look for opportunities to rationalise some national accountability requirements across employment programmes to create less reporting requirements on employment and training providers so they can focus more time and resources on programme delivery and collaboration.

copy the linklink copied!Fostering Indigenous job creation in urban areas

  • Promote stronger community engagement with Indigenous Australians: More can be done within regions and cities across Australia to create collaboration opportunities and direct engagement with Indigenous Australians to find people-centred solutions to employment.

  • Better track Indigenous entrepreneurship activities that provide new avenues for job creation: The government could strengthen efforts to promote entrepreneurship education among Indigenous Australians with a strong focus on coaching, training and peer learning.

  • Continue to use procurement policies to promote social inclusion: Commonwealth, State and Territory governments often inject social procurement clauses when awarding government contracts. It is critical to look for opportunities to inject social procurement clauses within infrastructure projects being implemented in regions and cities across Australia to advance Indigenous employment and skills training opportunities.


This work is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of OECD member countries.

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

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Executive Summary