Australia's cultural institutions lacking diversity

by Chloe Taylor06 Jan 2015
According to a recent report by The Sydney Morning Herald, some of Australia’s major state cultural institutions are ironically lacking in cultural diversity when it comes to their workforces.

Included in these workplaces is The Art Gallery of NSW – which reportedly claims that it is committed to diversity and inclusion as an employer.

A mere 0.5% of the gallery’s workforce is made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the Herald reported – the national benchmark is 2.6%. It was also revealed that this was a decrease from 2012, when indigenous people made up 1.2% of the gallery’s staff.

This was not the only decline in diversity – the gallery has also seen a decrease in the number of employees with disabilities as well as those from a non-English-speaking background since 2012.

“The gallery is committed to a diverse and inclusive workplace and we work within New South Wales state government framework to work towards achieving EEO targets,” said gallery spokeswoman Natasha Henry.

The Sydney Opera House also reported a failure to reach diversity targets. The Herald reported that 46.6% of its current workforce was female, falling short of its 50% target, while only 1.6% were indigenous and 14.3% were from a non-English speaking background.

The Opera House’s disabled staff fell from making up 3.7% of the workforce to 2.5% over the past four years.

However, the Opera House has plans in place to increase workplace diversity, including an indigenous internship program, the Herald reported.

“The Opera House has a high number of women in leadership roles,” said Opera House spokeswoman Kate Huish, referring to the chief executive, head of security, general counsel and company secretary as examples.

It was reported that the Australian Museum met targets for employing indigenous people and women, but fell short of its 12% benchmark for employing people with disabilities by 10%. 

In its 2014 annual report, The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences reported that 53% of its workforce were women, and 17% of staff had a first language other than English – not far from its 20% benchmark. However, only 1% of MAAS staff were indigenous, while 7% were people with disabilities. 

COMMENTS

  • by Jenny 12/01/2015 9:06:05 AM

    Did it occur to anyone that Aboriginal & Torres Straight Islanders didn't apply for roles in these organisations? Just because an organisation has a target or a good intention doesn't mean people of any particular demographic will apply. I struggle with any organisation having diversity 'targets'. Surely the target when recruiting to fill a position is to get the right person for the job - a person with the appropriate qualifications, skills & abilities to perform the role, who is a good cultural fit for the environment, so they are set up to be successful in the role. Ethnicity, religion, gender etc have nothing to do with it.

  • by Abbey Q 2/03/2016 10:41:03 AM

    Jenny, did it occur to you that the colonisation of Australia's ATSI population systematically dismantled their language, culture and identity, ensuring the new dominant white culture was established and protected? Did it occur to you that this led to severe economic and educational disadvantages that prevented them from obtaining the "appropriate skills & abilities to perform the role"? Also, when your culture is effectively destroyed and your people continue to be vilified and discriminated against you are less inclined to feel like you are "good cultural fit" and be "set up to be successful in the role" in an institution run by your oppressors. So... Theres that too. Did it occur to you that your privilege may make all of this invisible to you but that these may be very real experiences for people of colour in Australia? Ethnicity, religion, gender and culture etc have literally everything to do with it, Jenny.

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