Empty rhetoric

30 March 2017

Indigenous staff members and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) were surprised to find that references to Indigenous employment targets have been removed from a proposed new version of a staff agreement.

Previously, the University of Melbourne Enterprise Agreement included a “fundamental principle’”of supporting Indigenous Employment through the implementation of the Melbourne Indigenous Employment Framework. The agreements also acknowledged the University’s target of reaching population parity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff numbers by 2020.

The University of Melbourne branch of the NTEU took to Facebook to suggest the changes showed that the University valued ‘rhetoric’ over ‘reality’.

“On the one hand the Uni publically acknowledges traditional owners by including ‘Wominjeka’ to their welcome sign, on the other they have recently sent out a new proposed staff agreement which removes Indigenous Employment from terms and conditions of employment,” read one post.

Indigenous Branch Committee Member for the NTEU Melbourne branch and Murrup Barak staff member Nicole Major said that she was disappointed to hear of the changes contained in the proposed new agreement given the University’s relatively strong support for other Indigenous perspectives.

“In terms of what the University is doing and what they’ve withdrawn in terms of Indigenous targets, we’re all on the same page about that. In terms of why that’s happened, that’s not something we’re privy to.”

She also said she had not been contacted for consultation.

Dr Sally Eastoe, Executive Director Human Resources, argued an industrial agreement is not the right place to include Indigenous targets.

“Sophisticated and long term employment strategies and actions cannot be distilled in an industrial agreement which is primarily intended to articulate the terms and conditions of individual employees,” Dr Eastoe said.

“Indigenous employment continues to form an important part of the University’s diversity strategy to promote inclusion. The University’s Indigenous employee numbers have increased from 21 in 2010 to 87 as at December 2016, however, we know we need to do more to achieve sustainable population parity, as committed to in the University’s Growing Esteem Strategy for 2015-2020.”

She said that there will be room for consultation later in the process.

“The University has absolutely drawn on the knowledge and insights of its Indigenous colleagues,” Dr Eastoe said.

“Employees and relevant stakeholders will have opportunity to provide feedback on the University’s proposed agreements.”

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