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How to retain and develop Aboriginal Australian women in the APS

21 May 2021
Lee-Anne Daffy

During National Reconciliation Week 2021, we are sharing stories from Sir Roland Wilson (SRW) and Pat Turner scholars that promote First Nations led and First Nations focused research.

Lee-Anne Daffy is a SRW Pat Turner PhD scholar from Services Australia, whose social work role contributes to the provision of compassionate and holistic support to customers who present with complex life circumstances.

Lee-Anne’s doctoral research explores the significance entry-level programs can have in changing the lives of Aboriginal Australian women. Lee-Anne knows this topic well, as she participated in the Department of Human Services graduate program in 2011.

I have been extensively advocating for First Nations staff in entry-level programs for some years now. Aboriginal Australian women have unique and specialised skill sets that can provide a more robust and highly skilled diversity within the workplace.

"By undertaking post-graduate research in this area, I hope to provide insight into the key factors that support recruitment and retention of Aboriginal Australian women in the Australian Public Service (APS) and how these entry programs positively impact future generations, by increasing employment prospects and employment outcomes”.

Lee-Anne is doing her research through Charles Darwin University, where she is predominantly using qualitative analysis as a more holistic approach to gathering rich and in-depth data. Participants will share their journey stories through storytelling, painting, song, pictures or other recognised ways of telling. These ways of telling draw from Indigenous research methodology - valuing ways of being (ontologies), ways of doing (axiology) and ways of knowing (epistemologies).

While the APS is seeing increased recruitment through entry-level programs, retention of First Nations staff remains a priority of the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy 2020-2024. Lee-Anne hopes her research will uncover a broad understanding of what works and what doesn’t in the support of Aboriginal Australian women in entry level programs, as well as the importance of mentoring in the workplace.

“This study has implications for fundamental shifts in employment outcomes in a way that directly influences levels of self-determination for First Nation’s women and, in turn, future generations. It will demonstrate the increased opportunity for the broader community to benefit from the unique contributions and skill sets, First Nations women bring to the APS. After completion of the project, it is my vision to utilise the wisdom found in the research to professionally advocate for policy change by working in areas of policy design and training”.                                             

Lee-Anne, a Taungurung woman, has been with Services Australia in a social work capacity for over ten years. She holds a Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Business Management, Diploma of Government, a Professional Certificate in Indigenous Research and a Mentoring with Indigenous Australians Certificate. Her Australian Research Council Project led to being published in a peer reviewed journal. Lee-Anne regularly presents at conferences, facilitates cultural responsiveness programs and was the Chair of the National Indigenous Social Work Group.

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The Sir Roland Wilson Foundation is a partnership between The Australian National University, Charles Darwin University and the Australian Public Service.