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Australian Workforce to Become More Diverse


Friday, 5th June 2015 at 5:14 pm
Xavier Smerdon, Journalist
Australian workplaces will be more culturally diverse in the future, with more employees and business leaders coming from Indian and Chinese backgrounds, Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner has claimed.

Friday, 5th June 2015
at 5:14 pm
Xavier Smerdon, Journalist


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Australian Workforce to Become More Diverse
Friday, 5th June 2015 at 5:14 pm

Australian workplaces will be more culturally diverse in the future, with more employees and business leaders coming from Indian and Chinese backgrounds, Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner has claimed.

Speaking at a human rights conference in Sydney, Tim Soutphommasane said cultural diversity in the workforce was a reflection of Australian society, where almost half the population is either first generation or second generation Australian.

Soutphommasane said diversity would “endure” in the future.

“Let’s think about what the future Australian workforce is going to look like. If we are talking about a country that still takes in a significant number of immigrants every year, where almost half that population is first or second generation, then this diversity isn’t likely to diminish in any way,” Soutphommasane said.

“If you think of the source countries of our migration at the moment, the two biggest source countries are now India and China. Diversity will endure.”

But Soutphommasane said there was still a lack of cultural diversity in leadership roles.

He pointed out the lack of diversity in Federal Parliament, saying Australia’s cultural diversity and multicultural success was not being replicated in leadership levels in public institutions.

“We have 226 members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, but only a handful of those 226 come from non-European backgrounds,” Soutphommasane said.

“There are only currently two who are of Indigenous background.  If you look at our public service, you see a similar pattern as well.  

“Let me just read to you the list of the names of the 17 heads of Federal Government Departments. Moraitis, Glyde, Clarke, Richardson, Paul, Leon, Tune, Varghese, Halton, Campbell, Bowles, Beauchamp, Mrdak, Pratt, de Brouwer, Thawley, Lewis, Fraser. Now there’s only one of those names that comes from a non-European background.”

Soutphommasane said people from culturally diverse backgrounds were clearly still facing discrimination in the workforce.

“Discrimination is a factor: we know that,” he said.

“I draw your attention to research done by Australian National University in 2010 involving resumes, 4000 resumes which were sent to prospective employers.  

“Many of you will be familiar with this example: all the qualifications were identical, they involved people who were born in Australia (so can be assumed to have mastery of the English language). The only variable that was amended was the names. Some had Anglo-Saxon sounding names, some had Chinese sounding names, some had Middle-Eastern sounding names, some had Italian sounding names, some had Aboriginal sounding names.

“The researchers found that if you had a Chinese sounding name, you had to apply 68% more times in order to be invited to interview compared to someone with an Anglo-Saxon sounding name. If you had a Middle-Eastern sounding name, you needed to apply 64 more times to be invited to interview. If you had an Italian sounding name, 12% more.  

“The one aberration that was found in the research was that in Melbourne it was in fact an advantage if you had an Italian sounding name, not a disadvantage.”

Soutphommasane said it was important for business leaders to be be able to admit that people from different cultural backgrounds faced barriers.

“As for power and privilege – when we’re challenging prejudice and discrimination, we are in one very basic sense challenging power,” he said.

“If we are not honest about that, we will not get anywhere. It is not about fairness alone. It is about ensuring that the status quo does not serve to advantage others and disadvantage others.  

“Related to that is privilege. Can someone who does not ever have to experience discrimination be honest about the possible privilege that they may be experiencing?”


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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