“I think there is great potential for change when you have a critical mass of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within an organization,” she says.
Mundine says there is safety in numbers for Indigenous Australians so businesses need to be wary of making a single person the lone voice for Indigenous issues.
“You never want to be… the person who gets… put forward as the poster child for a particular issue,” she says.
Reconciliation Australia encourages businesses of all sizes to create a reconciliation action plan (RAP) focusing on relationships, respect and opportunities.
“If you show respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and you're able to build relationships it will create opportunities for them [and] also for your business,” says Mundine.
However, she adds businesses need to ensure they welcome Indigenous people, make them feel involved and valued, to encourage them to bring their best self to the office.
“How does someone manage an Aboriginal-Australian person who might be in the workplace for the very first time? I think sometimes we overcomplicate things,” Mundine says.
Setting tangible targets can help businesses stay on track with their RAP: “targets are about signaling, either within your organisation or externally, that this is something important to the organisation that we are striving to do.”
Linda Burney, Federal Member for Barton and Shadow Minister for Human Services, says diversity is important for people to understand.
“There is still a huge amount of ignorance out in the broader community about Aboriginal Australia,” she says. “There are still stereotypes and prejudices that exist. Things like ‘Aboriginal people won't work as hard or be as reliable’ all those kind of negative stereotypes that exist in the workplace. I was dealing with [them] when I was young and [I’m] still dealing with now unfortunately.”
Her key advice? “Don't put me in a tunnel vision view of what Aboriginal people should be like and what Aboriginality is about.”
“It's like saying ‘all white people are the same’,” she says. “Of course not - you have different interests; different passions; different tastes in music. The same applies for Aboriginal Australia too.”
Burney says resilience is incredibly important for Indigenous Australians.
“We have to be resilient to have survived the last 230 years and to still be strong in who we are and strong in our culture,” she says.
But Burney is particularly inspired by young Indigenous Australians and their poise, confidence and educational outcomes: “those young people understand this didn't happen by magic. There was a lot of work put in by people from my generation and generations prior to mine to make these opportunities available.”
You can listen to the whole conversation in the podcast above.
Andrew Maxwell is host of the Art of Inclusion podcast and is Knowledge and Development Manager at Diversity Council Australia.
This podcast was originally published by the Diversity Council Australia and was co-published by bluenotes. Subscribe on your preferred player: iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Whooshkaa.