Recommendations for inclusion

Members of Federation’s Aboriginal Members and Aboriginal Education committees welcome the Australian Education Union’s (AEU) commitment to the 10 recommendations of the Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research’s report Making our words and actions meet: Understanding the experiences of Indigenous educators in the workforce. We look forward to discussing and developing actions for change in NSW.

The report contains the findings of a national survey of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander members of the AEU by the Yalukit Yulendj Committee in 2019. Indigenous educators were asked about their experiences of work, aiming to answer the question: “How do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander public education workers in Australia perceive and experience racism in their workplaces and across the system more broadly?”

The AEU then engaged the Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research to compile the findings and make recommendations for change.

On 30 November 2023, members of the Yalukit Yulendj Committee (the AEU’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Committee) gathered in Canberra for the launch of the report. As Indigenous educators who had spent eight months on the Voice campaign trail, we weren’t surprised by the findings. The findings show just how culturally unsafe our workplaces are: 44 per cent of respondents felt they were responsible for Indigenous issues in the workplace and they carried the burden of educating their colleagues on Indigenous culture, despite the employer providing access to professional learning in this space. One of the most concerning trends was that non-Indigenous educators provide the most racist burden to their Indigenous colleagues, more than students, parents and the community. The impacts of racism were found to prevail, with nearly half of respondents experiencing poor mental health and 37 per cent noting poor physical health.

The report’s recommendations include commitment to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members to explore truths, building cultural load considerations into workplace cultural responsiveness training, and testing and evaluating effectiveness of racism complaint procedures. The full list of recommendations can be accessed in the report.

At its 40th Annual Conference in February, the AEU adopted the following as part of its Annual Conference statement, under the priority titled Tackling Racism in Education Workplaces: “The 2024 AEU Federal Conference affirms the commitment to this course of action and, in keeping with the intent of Recommendation 2 of the Jumbunna report, we will work with Aboriginal members and Torres Strait Islander members to lead and inform the AEU’s work to develop and implement the relevant actions and implementation plans to achieve the recommendations for change.” (Rec. 2 is: “Ensure engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members and enterprise bargaining provisions are developed and led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.”) Melissa Harding teaches at Hazelbrook Public School