National Conference on Reconciliation, Multiculturalism,Immigration and Human Rights

Mr Darren Bowd
Senior Policy and Planning Officer, Aboriginal Services Division, SA Department of Human Services

The Gift

How much do we really know about an organisation's "greatest asset"? While most organisational resources are audited down to the last paper-clip, do we make the best use of our people by knowing as much as we can about who they are, what they know, think and feel? All people inherently bring more to the workplace than is implied in their job title. But what is it they bring and how do we know what impact this great unknown has on the function and capacity of an organisation? Of course without this information, opportunities, threats, problems and solutions that can assist an organisation to develop for their own and their customers' mutual benefit are missed.

The 1967 referendum result permitted equal human rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples "in theory". What actually happened was a large scale withdrawal of Indigenous workers from Primary Industry, a major Australian employer, and the commencement of the Aboriginal welfare state. Despite being exploited in wage disparity and working conditions, Indigenous peoples rubbed shoulders with non-Indigenous in the workplace, a highly social environment that can foster relationships and provides a microcosm in which a society's larger issues are played out daily and impact on real people in real ways. Attempts to address the historic absence of Aboriginal people in virtually all workplaces have been made using what continue to be well intentioned yet disappointingly counter-productive beliefs such as those espoused in equal employment opportunity legislation. It is a relatively unsophisticated understanding of workforce diversity and it's subsequent under-use that limits our current degree of success in restoring Aboriginal peoples to their rightful, responsible and valuable participation in the Australian workplace.

Darren Bowd is a descendant of the Biripi people from the mid-north coast of New South Wales. Darren is a registered mental health nurse and has worked in a range of community based mental health services in Sydney and Adelaide, including mainstream and Aboriginal community controlled agencies. Darren currently works as a Senior Policy and Planning Officer in the Aboriginal Services Division of South Australia's Department of Human Services.

Presentation Type
30 min paper

University of Technology, Sydney, 1-2 December 2000

Papers & Workshops