Aboriginal employment and retention strategy

Acknowledgement of the Traditional Owners

Barwon Water proudly and respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live. We pay our respect to their Elders past, present and future.

We recognise and respect their culture, beliefs and ongoing intrinsic connection to the land and waterways over thousands of years. We will continue to work with local Aboriginal groups to ensure that Aboriginal values are incorporated into our business.

“We are committed to building long-term and meaningful relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within our region. The journey we have taken as an organisation to get to this point is symbolic of our deeper and more meaningful commitment to reconciliation.”

– Tracey Slatter, Managing Director Barwon Water

Throughout this page the term Aboriginal is used to refer to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Executive summary

Barwon Water and Barwon Asset Solutions are proud to launch our first Aboriginal Employment and Retention Strategy. This continues the positive and respectful journey we have been on with the local Aboriginal Community to achieve meaningful and sustainable outcomes.

The strategy is a key commitment under the Barwon Water Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan 2018–2020 and is structured around five key areas; recruitment, induction, inclusive workplace practices, retention, and development.

At the heart of this framework is understanding and embedding Aboriginal cultural values and the holistic wellbeing of Aboriginal Peoples. This will provide the foundations for creating and delivering culturally appropriate, respectful and meaningful outcomes for Aboriginal staff.

We aim to attract increasing numbers of Aboriginal employees into career pathways that are diverse and inclusive, provide culturally appropriate support and empower Aboriginal staff to progress and succeed professionally.

Barwon Water’s Aboriginal Employment and Retention Strategy provides an outline of the path we will follow on our journey to achieving Aboriginal employment outcomes, enhancing relationships and continuing our commitment to be a diverse, inclusive and culturally safe employer of choice for the Aboriginal community.

We are excited to go on this journey and walk with our Aboriginal community in unity to achieve shared, sustainable and meaningful outcomes.

(Note: Barwon Water and Barwon Asset Solutions will be referred to as Barwon Water throughout this page.)

Introduction

Barwon Water is committed to building a diverse and inclusive workplace across all segments of our business. We know that diverse and inclusive workplaces have higher levels of staff engagement, satisfaction and retention.

This employment strategy will be implemented in consultation with our Aboriginal employees and advisors. At the time of this strategy, there are currently 11 (three permanent employees, three employed through third party arrangements, and five employed as trainees) employees* who self-identify as Aboriginal (permanent and agency), that equates to 3.4% of Barwon Water employees. Barwon Water Aboriginal Inclusion 2020 target is 1.5%.

  • Although Barwon Water is meeting the 1% target set by the Victorian Government in 2010, and VicWater 2020 target of 2.5%, there is a projected population growth of the Victorian Aboriginal community.
  • The strategy will focus on developing a talent pool and achieving the target through natural staff turnover rather than creating new roles.

At a minimum, this strategy commits us to;

  • Build skills, develop and provide job opportunities for Aboriginal people.
  • All employment and recruitment procedures and policies will have no barriers to Aboriginal employees and future applicants participating in our workplace.
  • Provide a supportive and culturally safe workplace for our Aboriginal employees through:
    • collection of relevant information from our Aboriginal employees to inform future employment opportunities;
    • cultural awareness training;
    • provide development and training opportunities; and
    • ongoing support and mentoring.
  • Develop a reporting tool that aligns with our existing diversity dashboard, to collect and report on information.
  • Host a gathering of our Aboriginal employees annually. The gathering will seek to consult with our Aboriginal employees on employment strategies and professional development requirements.

* Note: numerical representation may fluctuate with departures and recruitment, more so by the nature of third party engagement.

Strategy

Barwon Water’s Aboriginal Employment and Retention Strategy aims to attract increasing numbers of Aboriginal employees into career pathways that are diverse and inclusive. The framework for this strategy is structured around 5 key areas;

  • recruitment
  • induction
  • inclusive workplace practices
  • retention
  • development.

At the heart of this framework is understanding and embedding Aboriginal Cultural Values and the holistic wellbeing of Aboriginal peoples. This will provide the foundations for creating and delivering culturally appropriate, respectful and meaningful outcomes for Aboriginal staff.

Figure 1: Aboriginal employment strategy framework

Key focus area: recruitment

Barwon Water aims to increase Aboriginal employment opportunities, develop partnerships to provide culturally appropriate recruitment and become an employer of choice for the Aboriginal Community.

In the last five years there has been significant focus on creating jobs for Aboriginal people across the private and public sectors.  This has created a highly competitive environment for both qualified and experienced talent.

New approaches to increasing the recruitment of Aboriginal employees include looking for opportunities to work collaboratively with professional associations and education providers to reach Aboriginal candidates with varying levels of skills.

Objectives

  • To meet the Barwon Water Aboriginal Inclusion 2024 target of 4% of staff employed at Barwon Water identifying as Aboriginal.
  • Development of an Aboriginal specific traineeship program with a pathway to full-time employment that may or may not be within Barwon Water or Barwon Asset Solutions.
  • Review Aboriginal specific traineeships to develop a locally focused traineeship program that will provide a pathway to full time employment that may or may not be within Barwon Water or Barwon Asset Solutions.

Actions

  • Investigate traineeship opportunities for Traditional Owners in the areas of horticulture, land and waterway management.
  • Continue the Barwon Water Traineeship program with a focus on increasing the number of Aboriginal Trainees.
  • Development of formal partnerships with Aboriginal organisations to provide; job ready support, advertising of employment vacancies, targeted Aboriginal recruitment.
  • Increased employment opportunities advertised and promoted directly to the Aboriginal Community through targeted campaigns.
  • Revise wording on job ads to encourage Aboriginal candidates to apply for roles.
  • Develop Aboriginal employment resources and promote employment at career expos.
  • Implement a specific undergraduate pathway through a scholarship targeting tertiary level students, including work experience.
  • Investigate other opportunities to develop a larger pipeline of appropriately qualified Aboriginal talent such as providing school level scholarships for years 11-12.
  • Investigate opportunities to utilise recruitment services from Aboriginal Organisations and recruitment agencies.
  • Ensure there is Aboriginal representation on interview panels when interviewing Aboriginal candidates.
  • Continue to monitor our HR and recruitment procedures and policies to ensure they are culturally appropriate and there are no barriers to Aboriginal employees.

Key performance indicators

  • Advertising job vacancies to effectively reach Aboriginal candidates through targeted campaigns, Aboriginal media, networks and Aboriginal specific recruitment agencies and measure effectiveness.

Case Study: Traineeship program

To ensure there were traineeship opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in our community, Barwon Water worked closely with Wan-Yaari Aboriginal Consultancy Services to develop an appropriate recruitment campaign, and committed to a target of 6 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander placements.  By having a focused and collaborative approach, Barwon Water exceeded the committed target and employed 8 trainees who identified as Aboriginal.

Working closely with Wan-Yaari Aboriginal Consultancy Services to provide a culturally safe work environment to keep the trainees engaged in the program, and to provide the best outcome for the trainees.  This was delivered in the form of ongoing mentorship throughout the 12-month traineeship program, numerous Aboriginal Cultural Awareness workshops and training for supervisors and workgroups, and workshops for all the trainees facilitated by Wan-Yaari.  In addition to this, to welcome all trainees on their first day of employment with Barwon Water, we invited the Traditional Owners to provide a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony, where all Barwon Water employees are invited to attend.

Since 2017 there have been 10 Aboriginal trainees who have participated in the program.  Post the program, three trainees have continued full time employment with Barwon Water, four have followed career pathways with other employers, and one has gone on to further studies at university level.

Key focus area: induction

Barwon Water aims to create a supportive induction program to ensure a smooth transition into the organisation and establish the foundations for a successful career.

Induction plays an important role in the recruitment and retention of employees. New starters can sometimes feel overwhelmed by a new workplace.  Providing new starters with a workplace buddy can assist them to settle into a workplace more comfortably.  In the case of Aboriginal employees, another Aboriginal person is desirable in the role of a buddy where possible, ideally from within the organisation.

Barwon Water has developed a new onboarding program for all new starters.  All elements of the onboarding program make reference to Barwon Water’s commitment to recognise and value the continuing cultures and contributions of the Traditional Owners, and their ongoing connection to the land.

Objectives

  • Continually review the current induction process to ensure that it incorporates Barwon Water’s commitment to Aboriginal outcomes, inclusive workplace policy, and expectations of behaviour.
  • Enhance visibility and connection to Barwon Water’s Reconciliation Action Plan in the New Starter Onboarding process.
  • Investigate the possibility of developing a Cultural Connection Program for new Aboriginal employees that focuses on explores topics such as Aboriginal identity and Aboriginality in the workplace, Cultural Loads and strengthening connection to culture.

Actions

  • Incorporate Barwon Water’s Reconciliation Action Plan into the New Starter Onboarding Program
  • Implement a workplace buddy process for all Aboriginal new starters.
  • Continue with “get to know you” email, phone call and face to face contact to welcome employees and inform them about the employee support available.
  • Continue to provide additional mentoring and support to Aboriginal employees, their People Leader and their team post-employment.

Key performance indicators

  • Annual review of induction process.
  • Establishment of a Cultural Connection Program

Case study: onboarding program

An onboarding program has been developed for all new starters, to create a positive onboarding experience, and transition into the organisation and understand the cultural values and behaviours.  The onboarding program commences from the point offer of employment, through a number of stages throughout the first twelve months.  The following links are for the interactive eLearns modules that form part of the onboarding experience.

  • Offer to Onseat eLearn
  • Onboarding eLearn
  • Corporate induction
  • Onboarding excursions.

A key consideration when developing the new onboarding program, was to ensure the new starters had the right information at the right time, and to distil the key elements of Strategy 2030, connecting employees to it, and how their role contributes to delivering the strategy, as well as the demonstrated values and behaviours expected from all employees.

From the job advertisement all the way through; the offer to onset, onboarding elearns, corporate induction, including the Aboriginal Cultural site tour that forms part of the onboarding program, reference to Barwon Water’s commitment to improve our relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, is highlighted as a key message.

Key focus area: inclusive workplace practices

Creating an environment that embeds cultural perspectives in all dimensions of the organisation is fundamental to the cultural wellbeing of Aboriginal people working at Barwon Water.

Barwon Water has been building its inclusiveness over a number of years through the Barwon Water Inclusion Action Plan, the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), and the delivery of Aboriginal cultural awareness training and working with Traditional Owners to Care for Country to make Barwon Water an inclusive and culturally safe workplace.

Objectives

  • Continue to apply a diversity and inclusion lens to cultural learning for all staff within Barwon Water, together with the development of unconscious bias training.
  • Continue to develop the cultural inclusivity and visual representation of Aboriginal culture throughout the Barwon Water office environment.
  • Embed cultural safety framework into organisation.

Actions

  • Review Cultural Leave policies and procedures including; Sorry Business and Community Leave.
  • Review position descriptions to ensure all employees understand the expectation to display inclusive leadership and team practices, including through cultural learning and awareness, to strengthen a culturally safe workplace.
  • Continue to provide cultural competence training to People Leaders of our Aboriginal employees.
  • Continue to provide on-Country Cultural Education Sessions with Traditional Owner Groups.
  • Explore training opportunities for all Barwon Water staff to further enhance and develop knowledge, respect, understanding and awareness of Aboriginal Peoples and Culture.
  • Explore training opportunities for key Barwon Water staff to understand Cultural Safety, Cultural Loads, Casual Racism and Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing.
  • Create a cultural resource hub on the People Page that holds general information about Aboriginal employment and supporting Aboriginal employees.
  • In consultation with Aboriginal staff and Aboriginal consultants, review and update Cultural Leave policies and procedures.

Key performance indicators

  • Increase in the number of cultural competence training sessions delivered to Barwon Water staff.
  • Increase in the number and percentage of staff who have undertaken cultural awareness training.

Case Study: naming of meeting rooms in Wadawurrung language

Barwon Water have created a culturally welcoming and inclusive working environment through visual representation of culture throughout the office space. This is evident from the moment you step foot inside the building with an Acknowledgment of Country plaque upon entry, sculpture designed by a local Aboriginal artist in the foyer and Aboriginal artwork displayed throughout the working spaces. A key project in developing a strong connection to culture and inclusive working environment was the naming of meeting rooms in local Wadawurrung language.

Through numerous meetings and storytelling sessions with Wadawurrung Traditional Owners, we developed names for all rooms and spaces with a story to accompany each one. The names were chosen with hopes to make a connection between what the room or meeting space would be used for and a similar word or story in Wadawurrung culture. Uncle Bryon Powell and Wadawurrung were proud of the project and pleased with the end result. Using Wadawurrung words ensures that their stories and history is shared and their language becomes a part of our culture and continues to live on. Some examples of the room names and their meanings are included below:

Kuarka Dorla

Kuarka Dorla was the name used for one of our informal meeting areas. Kuarka Dorla is an informal meeting area that is open to the environment. The area includes spotted gum decking and sections of native grasses and shrubs. The layout is modelled from the shapes of rock and sand formations. Kuarka Dorla means fishing place for mullet and was the original name for Anglesea. Limpets and molluscs were gathered out of the rock pools and reefs here. There are huge shell middens around these areas showing evidence of thousands of years of fishing and hunting. The trees would help tell people when to go fishing. When different plants were flowering, they knew that different fish would be running through the rivers.

Wurdee Youang

Located on the ground floor, Wurdee Youang is a large meeting hub for staff to gather for important events. Wurdee Youang is the name for the “You Yangs”. It means big hill in the middle of the plain. Lowan, one of the creation beings, rested here as he travelled across country. Everywhere he rested he turned the stone into granite. Wadawurrung people went to Wurdee Youang for special celebrations and as part of their initiation journey.

Worrowing Willam

This is a significant space outside of the building, connecting Ryrie Street to the cultural arts precinct to the north, as well as Johnstone Park. The space provides a new public pedestrian link through Geelong. The name embodies the connection of the old creek that now runs beneath Geelong, and the connection that Barwon Water has with the waterways of Geelong. The building now sits on what was the banks of the old creek that ran down through Johnstone Park and into the bay.

Key focus area: retention

Creating a culturally inclusive workplace and providing professional development opportunities are key elements in empowering and retaining Aboriginal employees.

Over 70 per cent of the Aboriginal workforce have been with the organisation for less than three years.  The retention of employees is strongly linked to how safe and valued they feel in the workplace and career development opportunities.

Objectives

  • Continue to enhance the cultural inclusivity and safety of the organisation.
  • Continue to understand individual cultural safety and implement culturally appropriate supports for Aboriginal employees.
  • Improve pathway from Traineeships, casual and short term positions into permanent positions.

Actions

  • Ensure Aboriginal employees are represented on key committees.
  • Ensure Aboriginal employees have the opportunity to engage in culturally appropriate mentoring programs to provide support and guidance throughout their employment journey
  • Development of an Aboriginal specific staff mentoring program.
  • Implement a professional development program for all Aboriginal employees that is focused on realising the potential of individuals.
  • Continually review and enhance the cultural inclusivity, cultural safety and culturally appropriate supports provided to Aboriginal employees.
  • Improve exit interviews for Aboriginal employees, even at the end of short term placements (agency) to gain insights into the reasons they leave Barwon Water.
  • Review exit interview questions and process for Aboriginal employees
  • Establish an Aboriginal Employee Support Network, internal and external.

Key performance indicators

  • Ensure exit interviews are conducted for all Aboriginal employees.
  • Increase in the length of service for Aboriginal employees at Barwon Water

Key focus area: development

Supporting and developing Aboriginal leaders to rewarding and meaningful careers at Barwon Water.

To extend professional development and careers for Aboriginal employees and recognition for contributions they make to influence change within Aboriginal communities, through investing in Aboriginal employees to ensure that they reach their full potential.  With a focus on value development and incorporating the unique cultural skills that Aboriginal employees offer in the workplace.

Objectives

  • Identifying top performers to transition from traineeship to employment through talent mapping and succession planning.
  • Provide current Aboriginal employees with new opportunities to build on their capabilities and to apply them in different roles across Barwon Water.
  • Increase the number of Aboriginal staff in middle, senior and management positions within Barwon Water.

Actions

  • Through the mentoring program, offer Aboriginal employees the opportunity to receive professional mentoring from a manager or senior leader.
  • Explore the establishment of a professional network of Aboriginal people within the water industry.
  • Review the possibility of a university scholarship program linked to career advancement opportunities into more senior roles.
  • Support study leave for Aboriginal employees to gain formal qualifications for career progression within Barwon Water.
  • Actively ensure that all Aboriginal employees have a personal development plan.
  • Actively identify Aboriginal employees for internal and external leadership programs (LEAD2030)
  • Create a formal pathway for top performing Aboriginal trainees into ongoing employment at Barwon Water.
  • Establishment of University Scholarship Program.
  • Increased number of Aboriginal employees participating in leadership programs.
  • Increase number of Aboriginal employees accessing professional mentoring from a manager or senior leader.
  • Increase in the number of Aboriginal employees employed by a range of
    classification levels.

Key performance indicators

  • Increased number of Aboriginal employees participating in leadership programs.
  • Increase number of Aboriginal employees accessing professional mentoring from a manager or senior leader.
  • Increase in the number of Aboriginal employees employed by a range of
    classification levels.

Governance, monitoring and reporting

The governance, monitoring and reporting of the Barwon Water Aboriginal Employment and Retention strategy is critical for achieving the intended outcomes.

The overall accountability for the strategy sits with the General Manager Organisational Performance.

The Barwon Water Aboriginal Employment and Retention strategy will support Barwon Water’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and Belonging @ Barwon Water Inclusion Action Plan, with progress monitored through reporting via our Balanced Scorecard KPIs and other internal reporting mechanisms, and progress reporting to the People and Culture and Executive Remuneration committee.

The strategy will be reviewed every 4 years in line with Belonging @ Barwon Water Inclusion Action Plan.

Figure 2: Operational governance, monitoring and reporting for the strategy

Resources

  • Belonging @ Barwon Water Inclusion Action Plan
  • Barwon Water People Page (employee self-service HR information site – internal intranet)
  • Barwon Water DEVELOP 2030 program (employee competency development program)
  • Barwon Water Reconciliation Action Plan

Table of actions

Recruitment

Action

Focus area

Responsibility

2020–2021

2021–2022

2022–2023

HR and recruitment procedures and policies to ensure culturally appropriate for Aboriginal employees.

To meet the Barwon Water Aboriginal Inclusion 2024 target of 4% of staff employed at Barwon Water identifying as Aboriginal .

People team (HR BPs)

Ongoing review of current HR policies

 

Barwon Water policy review practice

Employment opportunities advertised directly to the Aboriginal Community

Use Aboriginal employment services where required.

Promote Aboriginal employment at career events.

Development of formal partnerships with Aboriginal organisations to provide; job ready support, advertising of employment vacancies, targeted Aboriginal recruitment.

People team (Talent & Succession)

Revise wording on job ads

Investigate Aboriginal recruitment agencies

Recruitment metrics

Review undergraduate pathways through a variety of work experience programs.

Investigate other opportunities to develop a larger pipeline of appropriately qualified Aboriginal talent

People team (Talent & Succession)

 

Explore pathways

 

Investigate Traineeship opportunities for Traditional Owners in the areas of horticulture, land and waterway management.

Develop a locally focused traineeship program that will provide a pathway to full time employment  that may or may not be within Barwon Water.

People team (Talent & Succession)

Strategy & Sustainability team

Investigate inclusion within next RAP

Investigate RTO courses

 

Create a formal pathway for top performing Aboriginal trainees into full-time employment that may or may not be within Barwon Water.

Increase Aboriginal trainees within the Barwon Water Traineeship program

People team (Talent & Succession)

Workforce planning

  

Induction

Action

Focus area

Responsibility

2020–2021

2021–2022

2022–2023

Implement a workplace buddy process for all Aboriginal new starters.

Welcome email, phone call and face to face contact for new employees.

Outline employee support available.

New starter induction process to incorporate Barwon Water’s commitment to Aboriginal outcomes, inclusive workplace policy, and expected behaviours.

People team

People Leader

Buddy program to be explored

Implement buddy program

 

Incorporate Barwon Water’s Reconciliation Action Plan into the New Starter Onboarding Program

Enhance visibility and connection to Barwon Water’s Reconciliation Action Plan in the New Starter Onboarding process.

People team (HR BPs)

Include RAP in onboarding activities

  

Mentoring and support to Aboriginal employees, their People Leader and their team post-employment.

Cultural Connection Program for new Aboriginal employees  (Aboriginal identity and Aboriginality in the workplace)

People team (Talent & Succession)

Strategy & Sustainability team

  

Investigate a Cultural Connection Program

Inclusive workplace practices

Action

Focus area

Responsibility

2020–2021

2021–2022

2022–2023

Apply a diversity and inclusion lens to cultural learning for all staff within Barwon Water.

On-Country Cultural Education Sessions with Traditional Owner Groups to further enhance and develop knowledge, respect, understanding and awareness of Aboriginal Peoples and culture.

Cultural competence training to People Leaders and teams.

People team

Strategy & Sustainability team

Align with Barwon Water Diversity & Inclusion plan.

  

Cultural inclusivity and visual representation of Aboriginal culture throughout the Barwon Water office environment.

Create a cultural resource hub on the People Page that holds general information about Aboriginal employment and supporting Aboriginal employees.

People team

Strategy & Sustainability team

E-learns under development

Implement e-learns

Review and update cultural resource hub on People Page

Embed cultural safety framework into organisation to strengthen a culturally safe workplace

Review policies and procedures;
- Cultural Leave
- Position descriptions to include Aboriginal cultural values

People team (HR BPs)

Review alignment with Barwon Water's Enterprise Agreement and other specific leave types

  

Retention

Action

Focus area

Responsibility

2020–2021

2021–2022

2022–2023

Continue to enhance the cultural inclusivity and safety of the organisation.

Establish internal and external Aboriginal Employee Support.
Ensure Aboriginal employees are represented on key committees.

People Leader

Strategy & Sustainability team

Explore appropriate professional networks

  

Individual cultural safety and supports for Aboriginal employees.

Ensure Aboriginal employees have the opportunity to engage in culturally appropriate mentoring programs

People team

 

Explore an Aboriginal specific staff mentoring program.

 

Professional development program for all Aboriginal employees that is focused on realising the potential of individuals.

People team

People Leader

Investigate incorporating into individual PPP

  

Improve exit interviews for Aboriginal employees, even at the end of short term placements (agency) to gain insights into the reasons they leave Barwon Water.

Review exit interview questions and process for Aboriginal employees

People team (HR BPs)

Review off-boarding process

Review and monitor feedback

 

Development

Action

Focus area

Responsibility

2020–2021

2021–2022

2022–2023

Supporting and developing Aboriginal leaders to rewarding and meaningful careers at Barwon Water.

Development opportunities for current Aboriginal employees to build capability:

LEAD2030

Professional mentoring from a senior leader

Personal development plan

People team

People Leader

Barwon Water mentoring program under development

Review in line with Barwon Water mentoring program

 

Establish a professional network of Aboriginal people within the water industry.

Strategy & Sustainability team

 

Investigate appropriate network opportunities

Implement opportunities

 

Increase the number of Aboriginal staff in middle, senior and management positions within Barwon Water.

Tertiary program linked to career advancement opportunities into more senior roles.

People team (Talent & Succession)

Investigate undergraduate pathways (ie Career Trackers)

Implement opportunities