A diverse and inclusive sector is critical to serving the community

“A key strategy to enhance employee engagement and improve agency performance is having a public sector that better reflects the community it serves … diverse workforces are more innovative, productive and better able to deliver high‑quality services.”

Premier Mike Baird, speech to sector leadership, July 2016

Employees overwhelmingly agree that a diverse and inclusive workplace can lead to better business outcomes (85%).

Figure 4.1: How diverse is the NSW public sector in 2016?

Figure 4.1: How diverse is the NSW public sector in 2016?

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Women People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or as gender diverse People whose language first spoken as a child was not English Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders People with disability
63.6% (increase) 3.8% (first year collected) 18.0% (increase) 3.1% (steady) 2.8% (decrease)

Source: NSW Workforce Profile, *People Matter Employee Survey 2016


As well as the Premier’s Priorities for diverse leadership (see Chapter 2), many agencies are also working towards other diversity and inclusion goals. This chapter will address the drivers of these goals and the challenges to achieving them.

Figure 4.2: Percentage of agencies setting diversity and inclusion goals for groups listed

Diversity and inclusion goals % Agencies using goals for these groups
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation 79%
Gender 51%
People with disability 46%
People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds 38%
Other dimensions such as talent, work experience and education 22%
Younger workers 21%
Older workers 10%
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) 5%
No diversity and inclusion goals have been set 10%

Source: Agency survey 2016

Agency commitment is underpinned by different priorities

Discussions with human resource and operational leads across the sector reported four key drivers for building a diverse workforce.

Leadership support and accountability

Agencies reported strong leadership support for diversity initiatives, underpinned by executive sponsorship of key goals, and effective accountability mechanisms.

Diversity Council Australia (DCA) benchmark research found that 61% of Australian firms measured and reported their progress to their executive. In the NSW public sector, the same percentage of agencies did likewise. However, while only 20% of the firms in the DCA survey had included progress measures in managerial performance plans, agencies in the NSW public sector reported more than double the rate of accountability in senior leadership performance plans, at 43% 1.

The leaders driving diversity strongly support it. Senior executives are consistently more positive than other employees in their organisations in endorsing questions relating to diversity and inclusion in the People Matter survey.

Reflecting the community

60% of agencies reported that their top driver of diversity and inclusion is improving service delivery, while 49% say diverse perspectives improve decision-making.

Agencies say a workforce that reflects ‘who we are and what we do’ helps increase the take-up of services by key groups such as women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in regional communities.

Competing for talent

Agencies also view diversity through a workforce capability lens, with half reporting their strategies are also driven by a desire to recruit and retain top talent. However, while 57% of agencies say they monitor recruitment results for diversity outcomes, only 37% monitor their ability to attract diverse applicants – the other side of the ‘war for talent’ coin.

Shift to inclusion

Although the GSE Act allows agencies to look beyond equal employment opportunity (EEO) plans to focus on outcomes, 52% say their diversity initiatives can also be driven by a longstanding commitment to diversity group-focused EEO. In discussions, agencies believed they needed to move to a more inclusion-focused approach that recognised the value of diversity of thought.

Figure 4.3: Employee perceptions of diversity in their organisation

Figure 4.3: Employee perceptions of diversity in their organisation

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Diversity and inclusion in the workplace can contribute to better business outcomes 85
My organisation respects individual differences (e.g cultures, working styles, backgrounds, ideas) 75
My manager listens to what I have to say 73
My manager encourages and values employee input 69
I am able to speak up and share a different view to my colleagues and manager 69
People in my workgroup share diverse ideas to develop innovative solutions 67
My manager takes into account the differing needs and circumstances of employees when making decisions 66
My manager would take appropriate action if decision-making processes were found to be biased 65
I am provided with the support I need to optimise my contribution at work 59
How satisfied are you with your ability to access and use flexible working arrangements? 58
Senior managers in my organisation genuinely support the career advancement of women 54

Source: People Matter Employee Survey 2016

Employees are strong advocates for diversity

Employee support for diversity is high, and most feel their managers and organisations take the right steps to encourage an inclusive environment. 75% of employees agree their organisation respects individual differences, 73% feel their manager listens to what they say and 65% say their managers would act against biased decision-making.

Three-quarters of employees believe that cultural background, sexual orientation and gender are not barriers to workplace opportunities (77%, 76% and 74% respectively). Age and disability not being barriers to success were lower, at 71% and 67% respectively.

There are disparities in the scores relating to these barriers when analysed by selected demographics. For example, responses from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that cultural background was not a barrier to success were 8% points lower than the sector average, despite other responses from this group being broadly in line with scores in other areas.

While 80% of those in the 20–24 age bracket felt that age was not a barrier to success, this rate steadily declined to 64% for those aged 55–64, yet increased to 72% for those 65 and over. While 67% of employees reported that disability was not a barrier to success, just 54% of employees with a disability agreed.

Figure 4.4: Employee perceptions of barriers to success (% agreement)

Question Sector % Key group %
Cultural background is not a barrier to success in my organisation 77%
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander 69%
Language other than English 74%
Sexual orientation is not a barrier to success in my organisation 76%
Age is not a barrier to success in my organisation 71%
20-24 80%
50-54 66%
55-64 64%
65+ 72%
Disability is not a barrier to success in my organisation 67%
Employees with a disability 54%
Gender is not a barrier to success in my organisation 74%
Men 73%
Women 74%

Source: People Matter Employee Survey 2016

Where representation is a challenge

This section focuses on initiatives for building representation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and employees with disability across the sector, given the issues highlighted in the previous section.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation

The Council of Australian Governments set a target for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce representation of 2.6% by 2015. NSW exceeded this target, but found that employment was centred at the lower end of salary levels. It developed a new aspirational goal of 1.8% representation in each salary level, which would result in a cumulative representation level of 3.3% of the workforce. The NSW public sector is currently at 3.1%. 79% of agencies reported they had set goals for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation, while 68% had offered training to improve Aboriginal cultural competency.

Discrete strategies with focused support and leadership sponsors are demonstrating progress. When representation is looked at by salary range, progress since 2015 can be seen at either end of the salary range, where representation has either gone up or stayed the same. However, representation levels in the middle salary ranges are a concern, and emphasise the importance of strategies for retention to ensure the pipeline flows through. This could have an impact on the government sector’s ability to meet the Premier’s Priority goal of 114 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders by 2025 (see Chapter 2).

Figure 4.5: Estimated public sector representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 2006–2016

Figure 4.5: Estimated public sector representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 2006-2016

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Year Code Non-rounded data for chart
2006 1.9%
2007 2.1%
2008 2.2%
2009 2.4%
2010 2.5%
2011 2.6%
2012 2.7%
2013 2.7%
2014 2.9%
2015 3.1%
2016 3.1%

Source: NSW Workforce Profile 2016

Figure 4.6: Progress in meeting the Aboriginal employment target of 1.8% at all levels

Figure 4.6: Progress in meeting the Aboriginal employment target of 1.8% at all levels

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2015 2016
$8,000 to < $58,686 3.7% 3.9%
$58,687 to < $65,607 2.8% 2.9%
$65,608 to < $77,447 2.6% 2.7%
$77,448 to < $88,014 1.6% 1.6%
$88,015 to < $100,329 1.8% 1.9%
$100,330 to < $116,041 1.4% 1.4%
$116,042 to < $150,160 1.2% 1.2%
$150,161 to < $248,850 0.5% 0.5%
$248,851 to < $313,050 0.3% 0.5%
$313,051 & above 0.5% 0.4%

Only 2016 salary ranges displayed, with 2015 salaries 2.4% lower

Source: NSW Workforce Profile 2016.

Understanding why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees may feel cultural background is a barrier to success – and the nature of the barrier – is important to understanding the impact on retention.

Data for median tenure and separation rates indicate some retention challenges. Median tenure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees is currently two years shorter than the sector average. While the population is generally younger than the general workforce, it is worth a closer analysis of the drivers for this lower median tenure.

Figure 4.7: Median tenure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees,

Year Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Non Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Total sector
2012 6.8 8.6 8.5
2013 7.0 8.9 8.9
2014 7.1 9.0 8.9
2015 7.1 9.1 9.0
2016 7.3 9.4 9.3

Source: NSW Workforce Profile 2016

Following on from this, separation rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees are higher than for the A sector as a whole.

Agencies are working to build employment pipelines, with several reporting collaborations, such as between Education, Industry and Health to achieve goals of both retention in school and providing employment pathways. The work of the Aboriginal Career and Development Program builds on this to support leadership ambitions, as discussed in Chapter 2.

Representation of employees with disability

For employees with disability, the picture is complex. Workforce profile data indicates that their representation in the NSW public sector has been in steady decline since 2006, and data from the employee survey has also shown a decline in the number of employees disclosing a disability from 2014 to 2016. However, data must be used with caution, as many employees choose not to disclose their disability status. There can be a range of complex reasons for people not sharing this type of information, such as perceived social stigma, fear of discrimination, or their disability’s irrelevance to the work they performed. 2

Figure 4.8: Estimated public sector representation of employees with disability, 2006–2016

Figure 4.8: Estimated public sector representation of employees with disability, 2006-2016

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Year People with disablity People with disability requiring adjustment
2006 4.6% 1.4%
2007 4.2% 1.3%
2008 4.0% 1.2%
2009 3.9% 1.1%
2010 3.7% 1.1%
2011 3.6% 1.1%
2012 3.8% 1.0%
2013 3.5% 0.9%
2014 3.0% 0.8%
2015 2.9% 0.8%
2016 2.8% 0.8%

Source: NSW Workforce Profile 2016

Figure 4.9: Median tenure of employees with disability, 2012–2016

Year Code With disability (years) Without disability (years) Total sector (years)
2012 15.5 8.4 8.5
2013 15.4 8.8 8.9
2014 14.2 8.8 8.9
2015 14.1 8.9 9.0
2016 14.4 9.3 9.3

Source: NSW Workforce Profile 2016

Employees with disability report lower scores in most key measures in the employee survey, by an average of six percentage points across the board compared to the broader workforce. They also report higher rates of bullying than the sector average, with 34% indicating they have been bullied compared with 20% of the broader workforce.

Analysis of data for tenure, separation and commencement rates can provide insight into overall representation rates for employees with disability in the NSW public sector. For example, average tenure for employees with disability, while higher than the sector average and improving slightly in 2016, has generally been falling in recent years, moving in the opposite direction to the sector’s average tenure rates.

Employees with disability have separation from employment rates of 10.7% in 2016, up from 9.9% in 2015. This is slightly higher than the sector average of 10.0%, perhaps reflecting that employees with a disability are generally older with almost double the proportion retiring than the sector average, and double the rate of medical retirement. However, while the commencement rate for employees with disability is the highest in the past six years at 4.9%, it is still much lower than the sector-wide rate of 7.9%, contributing to a decline in participation overall.

While 46% of agencies have goals for the employment of people with disability, their maturity in implementing strategies to meet these goals is mixed. Agencies are most mature in immediate, transactional tasks such as making physical adjustments to workplaces when required, but less mature in longer-term strategies known to improve inclusion and retention.3

Figure 4.10: Percentage of agencies with mature policies and practices to improve disability inclusion

Transactional approaches % mature
Policy and procedures to make reasonable adjustments/workplace adjustments for people with disability 63%
Track timeliness and efficacy of reasonable adjustments/workplace adjustments 36%
Strategic approaches % mature
Make the workplace fully accessible (work design, building, technology, systems and policies) rather than waiting for individual requests for adjustments 47%
Include people with disability in workforce plans/diversity and inclusion plans 29%
Relationships with community disability organisations to promote employment 21%
Actively attract and recruit people with disability 15%
Internships that target people with disability 7%

Source: Agency survey 2016

Each agency’s self-assessed maturity of their disability inclusion policy and practices was measured against their headcount of employees with disability. This analysis showed that the more mature an agency’s disability inclusion practices, the higher their representation of employees with a disability. This was particularly the case for proactively making the workplace fully accessible and having policies and procedures to enable adjustments.

The data so far indicates that more work is needed to understand what makes a workplace inclusive for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders or employees with disability, and the barriers to their success. More can be done to attract workers from both these groups, and to engage and retain them. This, in time, will flow through to more meaningful and targeted services to these groups in the community.

Spotlight on diversity: Building jobs, a pipeline and closing the skills gap

For regional health services such as the Central Coast Local Health District (CCLHD), attracting a workforce that better reflects its indigenous community members is critical to effective service delivery. Regional services also confront workforce shortages in skilled areas, and health agencies have noted that information technology skills are a core capability gap.

In response, a partnership was developed to deepen regional relationships between CCLHD, Hunter TAFE (TAFE) and the Department of Education’s local schools to provide a pipeline of skilled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in areas of shortage, and ensure that educational and career development needs are aligned with a strategic regional view of future workforce requirements.

In 2014, CCLHD and TAFE worked in partnership, contacting all of the local high schools to launch a long-term strategy of attracting, training and employing Aboriginal school trainees. The strategy creates new roles that deliver improved healthcare to the community, enabling a single clinician to perform a wide generalist remit of healthcare services to clients (for example, Allied Health Assistants or Aboriginal Health Practitioners). In turn, this improves health outcomes and the length of hospital admissions (avoiding hospital altogether in some cases). The education partnership allows the TAFE and NSW Health training organisations to complement each other’s curricula, and work collaboratively to specialise in selected content, removing duplication and wastage. The linkages to schools allow early talent identification and career guidance to align training pathways to jobs of the future, which are in turn aligned to service needs.

The program has since more than doubled its intake numbers. All students who have participated so far have completed their HSC, attained a Certificate III Health Services Assistant qualification and work in permanent ongoing employment with CCLHD. Of the 24 currently employed, two have articulated into adult traineeships.

With the $348 million Gosford Hospital redevelopment underway, a need was also identified to directly develop the skills base within the region for the existing adult workforce. This has seen delivery of partial qualifications for people in information technology, operating theatre assistant studies and interpreters, and qualifications for frontline managers and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care (Practice).

Delivery of all programs was aligned to the local health district’s workforce planning cycle, adapted to project lines, and planned in conjunction with the major contractor. For example, some programmes have annual planning cycles (school-based traineeships) while others need to align to service requirements (the interpreter course was identified, scoped and able to be delivered within a short window of a few weeks). Work was done with the contractor to identify opportunities to build workforce capacity during construction phases and ensure a future regional workforce is delivered that is sustainable, and creates ongoing economic and employment opportunity for the regional community.

The partnership will continue to operate on a long- term basis and planning is underway to align service provision between the agencies in both the immediate and long term.


1 Macquarie University, the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) and Diversity Council Australia (DCA), Benchmarking Diversity and Inclusion Practices in Australia: Key Findings, the University of Sydney Business School Migrants@Work Research Group.

2Public Service Commission, Disabling the Barriers: Key Findings, 2014

3 Cornell University ILR School, Disability Inclusive Recruitment and Hiring Practices and Policies: Who Has Them and What Difference Does it Really Make?, 2013