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HomeIssue 10NTG recruiters told to always prefer Aboriginal applicants

NTG recruiters told to always prefer Aboriginal applicants

p2253-hospital-2By ERWIN CHLANDA
NT Health, the biggest employer in Alice Springs, is giving preference in recruitment to Aboriginal applicants whenever they are “suitable to perform the duties at a level appropriate for the position”.
An internal memo leaked to the Alice Springs News Online says: “Other applicants will only be considered if no Special Measures applicants are found suitable, and assessment of other applicants will only commence after this finding has been reviewed.
“The review process includes internal review by your HR unit, then formal review by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment, Public Sector Appeals and Grievance Review unit.
This seems to exceed the NT Government’s previously stated employment quota objectives as, in theory, non-Indigenous people could be completely kept out of jobs.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people covered by the policy, which came into force in January this year for two years, are referred to as “Special Measures” applicants.
The scheme is understood to be active across all NT Government departments.
p2253-special-measuresThe memo says: “This arrangement will apply to all advertised vacancies and to Entry Level Recruitment. If a vacancy is posted on the NTG vacancies website, Special Measures applies.”
The policy also applies to advertising for “Community Child Health Worker, Strong Women Worker, Strong Men Worker community based positions across NT Health – the Department of Health, Central Australian Health Service and Top End Health Service.
“An applicant selected under Special Measures will be required to provide evidence of their eligibility prior to commencement, such as a completed Statutory Declaration form or a supporting statement from an appropriate Aboriginal organisation.”
We have asked the NT Government for comment.
See UPDATE 4:10pm
The following statement was provided by a spokesman for the Department of the Chief Minister:
A Special Measure is a plan, program or arrangement designed to promote equal employment opportunity (EEO) for a group of people who have not yet achieved employment equality. Also known as “affirmative action”, essentially, a special measure is a form of more favourable treatment of certain EEO groups, such as Persons with a Disability, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons (Aboriginal).
Special Measures Recruitment is at the discretion of each Agency to decide if they wish to implement, and is approved by the Commissioner for Public Employment. Agencies have implemented such plans to support increased workplace diversity and to address inequality of employment opportunity.
Currently, 15 out of 33  agencies have applied for Special Measures Recruitment.
Special Measures have been in place for a long time in the NTPS under Designated Positions, where the Agency specifically designates a vacancy for a person from an EEO group and it cannot be filled by any person from outside that group.
From January this year, Priority Consideration and Preference in Selection, has been implemented under which applicants from the EEO target group will be considered first before all other applicants, and given preference in selection if they meet all the criteria and are suitable at level.
Recruitment numbers under Priority Consideration and Preference in Selection are not available as they are held by individual agencies subscribing to the Special Measures Recruitment. Only unsuccessful applicants from one of the two EEO groups who are found not suitable are submitted to OCPE to be reviewed.
Agency figures will be available once collated by agencies for Annual Report data.


  1. Erwin, your article is quiet interesting given the fact that I have been trying to return home to The Alice for the past number of years and having post-graduate degree from Sydney University’s School of Public Health in Indigenous Health as well as a journalism background, worked in the Death’s in Custody Commission,
    I still can NOT get a position within the Department of Health.
    One cannot say (as a couple of agencies have implied) they could not afford to pay a qualified applicant, but then again nepotism does run rift amongst the families and if one is not liked, one does not get a position.
    It is little wonder that Indigenous Health is in decline with unsuitable candidates filling positions.

  2. This is great news and long overdue.
    Aboriginal community residents trained for health careers (rather than cynical FIFO whitefellas) are needed to improve public health.
    This is reflected in the policies of the World Health Organisation, United Nations, the treaty rights of other nations, the research and best practices of indigenous health organisations around the world.
    I did a pilot study for NT Health (as a volunteer scientist) to show that remote NT communities are no different.
    It’s about improving the infrastructure of Aboriginal health, not whitefella jobs.

  3. This so called Special Measures policy is blatant reverse racism.
    If I were to apply for a position and in my cover letter or application state “I am Caucasian” I would be seen as a racist.
    Yet this is now acceptable for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders to do.
    Where is merit based selection reflected in this policy?
    I feel like we have stepped back in time where Applicant One gets the job over Applicant Two simply because their name is John and not Jane.
    I think if the government wants to be serious about equal employment opportunities then perhaps they should implement a system where initial applications are anonymous and names etc only released once the applicant is deemed suitable to progress to the next stage of recruitment.
    When a government department is legally allowed to discriminate based on race, things have gone scarily wrong.

  4. The fact of the matter is simple. This is the very thing that blacks and stirrers are always on about … this is out and out racism. Fact.

  5. Employing people based on race is both racist and offensive. It often leads to a lower standard of overall outcome quality as people employed are often a “suitable” applicant but, not the “best” applicant.
    If the NTG wants mediocre employees, it’s doing just the thing to ensure they get them.
    Until Australian governments get rid of the plethora of racist legislation and policies that benefit one race in Australia i.e. the Indigenous, spending on reconciliation will be a waste of money.
    We have a system of apartheid in Australia that needs to be given the flick.

  6. Robert Mugagbe would be proud to call the NT home! When does the white property acquisitions also start! I support merit based recruitment, not racism!

  7. @ Robinoz. July 9: “Until Australian governments get rid of the plethora of racist legislation and policies that benefit one race in Australia” – to achieve that, whitefellers would have to leave.

  8. Such an approach has been taken by all government agencies for decades now.
    Selection is still based on merit. No applicants should be given a job unless they satisfy the requirements of the position.
    Membership of an identified group is one factor only taken into consideration.
    I worked for the APS for over 13 years and I held identified Indigenous positions during that whole time. I am not Indigenous.
    If Indigenous applicants had competed against me and their experience and qualifications were level with mine, or exceeded mine, then they would have been offered that position instead of me.
    Many of my colleagues and my supervisors were Indigenous. I also chaired several selection panels for identified positions.
    Most of the successful applicants were not Indigenous because the competition from that group unfortunately was just not there.
    I would have also been trumped by female, non-English speaking backgound and disabled applicants if they had been able to satisfy the requirements for the job at the same level as I managed to do.
    The system is not racist, or sexist or any other kind of ‘-ist’ as long as it is merit based and aims to level the plying field.
    Like any other system though it can be corrupted. When applicants are excluded from jobs simply because of their ethnicity, gender or any other factor not related to the job itself then the process has been corrupted and should be reformed.

  9. Pretty disappointed with some of the responses on here. I think it’s a good thing, we’ve got to do more to encourage those who aren’t employed to get into the workforce and like so many people like to mention, Aboriginals have a much higher rate of unemployment than others.
    I’ve been in the public sector for three and a half years, if an Aboriginal wants to work for this place and be miserable I say let them.
    This article addresses part of the problem with the NT. We need initiatives like this but one thing we need even more, we need NT residents to change their perspective, their mindset that our Territory is a big load of “us and them”.
    Additionally, this is a good piece of reading for people who think “reverse racism” exists.

  10. We must not under any circumstances, make decisions based on ethnicity!
    Any such decision is inherently, undeniably racist to one group or another.
    The undeniable and untenable result of such decisions is to fuel racial division!
    Some comment below clearly displays that effect. At a time when we are openly discussing writing an anti discrimination clause into the constitution I think it behoves all of us to think long and hard about why we find it so easily acceptable to allow decisions of many kinds to be based on a person’s ethnicity.
    Ask yourselves if you were a young person who had just lost a job opportunity to a decision based on this criteria. Do you think you might just be a wee bit resentful? This kind of resentment is the birth place of racism, it has no place in an inclusive egalitarian society and most certainly not in a society striving to create, that egalitarian outcome.
    I am well aware however that this isn’t any kind of reverse racism. These rules weren’t brought in by Aboriginal people. The guilty parties are the same old same old patronizing paternalists so arrogant that they feel quite comfortable making condescending decisions in favor of those they believe to be somehow less than themselves.
    Now of course we are all aware of the need to get more Aboriginal people into the work place, I don’t know about the rest of you but I am personally sick to death of walking into local businesses and Government departments after a few weeks absences only to encounter a whole raft of new, fresh in town employees staring at you blank faced, leaving you with no alternative but reinventing the wheel for the hundredth time. My point!
    We need, desperately in my opinion, long term local employees! And there of course is your answer with no racism necessary! Give preference to locals just as it is done in the procurement process where up to 30% advantage is given to local business. The same could and should apply to local employees!
    Given that a big percentage of long term locals are Aboriginal they will naturally benefit from the preference without any need to step on the dangerous and slippery slope of introducing racial discrimination into the employment criteria.

  11. Interesting. Steve! Brown (Posted July 10, 2015 at 4:48 pm) has now joined the ranks of the anti-Giles brigade.
    Brown has tagged Giles here as a “guilty” of being one of “the same old same old patronizing paternalists so arrogant that they feel quite comfortable making condescending decisions in favor of those they believe to be somehow less than themselves.”
    It looks like the CLP’s spiral into absolute chaos and dysfunction is accelerating by the day.

  12. @ Bob: I had no particular individual in mind when making that comment, however if I was asked to think of a name I associated it with, your name would have been on top of the list.
    I was in fact referring to the often unrecognised resultingly accepted and unquestioned paternalistic racism that infests bureaucracies and academia. [Recognise the connection.]
    I don’t blindly follow any individual or organisation, Bob. I am not a member of the CLP. I am however a very firm supporter of Adam Giles and his Government.
    No, that doesn’t mean I agree with everything they say or do. But I tell you what Bob, Adam is by far and away the best choice the Territory presently has!
    I suggest if you want to achieve something useful for the Territory the best way to get that done is to lobby Adam. Why don’t you give it a go!

  13. One of the flaws in Steve Brown’s argument is that Aboriginal people are also posting, pointing out the disadvantage suffered, not just by certain members of their own family, but by non-Indigenous at the hands of culturally hegemonic government policies, e.g., those found in current alcohol legislation whereby tax on wine differs from the tax on other alcohol products, allowing the market to be flooded by cheap and nasty product.
    The Henry tax review in 2009 recommended a volumetric tax be levied according to alcohol content. A study published in The Medical Journal of Australia found a volumetric tax on wine could reduce alcohol consumption 1.3 per cent, saving $820 million in healthcare costs.
    This, at a time when young and mature-aged women are drinking to excess in increasing numbers.
    Time for Mr Brown to subscribe to the PAAC email-information feed and consider the mounting evidence, including an explanation as to why his beloved CLP reject the Sharman Report into indigenous alcohol consumption which sets out some of the reasons for cultural disadvantage, leading to why some Indigenous are posting about deaths in their family.
    It’s not so much racism, it’s more about culture and especially the culture of drinking in this region which Mr Brown doesn’t get.

  14. The question I ask, why the hospital employ all these foreign workers and not Australians. It is spot the Australian and vacancies are not advertised in local newspapers.

  15. There is no such animal as “reverse racism”. Racism is as basic as it ever can be, the recognition of one group as being superior to another.
    To select an applicant on the basis of ethnicity over competence is about as low as you can go.
    And on exactly the same level I see a group of Indigenese demanding that the same treatment for their group as being the only and superior group to be represented as the only rightful group to be mentioned in the Australian Constitution.
    It does make on think about the recognition of this superior group and their demands regarding the future correct level of compensation from the inferior group who have laid claim to this continent.

  16. @ Kathy: Well said. I think we need to place a hold on this constitution and reconciliation issues.
    Senator David Leyonhjelm has now cast doubt that the Australian Indigenous were the first people on this land as new evidence has come to light.
    If this is the case do we, the Anglo-Saxons, get reimbursed for all of their claims?

  17. Crikey, some ratbag views being posted here. Including by you “Bob the Brewer”. If you had the courage of your convictions about this put your name to it … I’ll bet you won’t.
    People who use their own names are often more thoughtful and considered in what they write.
    And might actually assess the validity of the remarks made by Senator Leyonhjelm.
    So for now I’ll think of you as “Bob the not-very Brave”, much as I think of “Fearfull Fred the Philistine”, scribblers on dunny walls. Man up, you blokes.

  18. Shame on you for your wilful ignorance, Bob the Brewer (Posted July 12, 2015 at 7:46).
    Take this: am

  19. Fred. You ask why the hospital employs all these foreign workers and not Australians?
    The answer is that it is cheaper to employ an overseas nurse than to put an Australian qualified new graduate through the intensive final year of training and then employ them.
    In effect the Federal Government’s employment rules favours overseas medical staff even though there is a high level of unemployment amongst Australian nurses with almost half new graduates not being able to get a job.
    Also worth noting is that the recent trade agreement with China allows companies to bring in their own Chinese workers on large projects such as mines and infrastructure even though there is a high level of local unemployment in these areas.

  20. @ Sandy: The free trade agreement has little to do with China, has very little to do with the Alice Springs Hospital and workers they employ.
    The workers of cleaners, laundry hands, kitchen staff, ground staff don’t have to be Asian or New Zealanders, as there are plenty of Australians that are more than capable to do the work.
    I don’t see too many Chinese at the hospital. Some of the foreign nurses would not have the qualifications to work in the major city hospitals.

  21. Several of my friends have lost their long term positions due to this action.
    As they have to advertise to win a position permanently, and they didn’t even get a look in as the Aboriginal applicants were assessed before anyone else, including the person sitting in the position for two years. 🙁

  22. As a non indigenous person, born in Darwin, the Special Measures recruitment drive has done nothing but turn one culture against the other and made living in the NT more difficult.

  23. The phrase “special measures” is a term that has been adapted into the employment policy marketplace from the human rights community, Section 10 of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975
    “S.10 Rights to equality before the law
    (1) If, by reason of, or of a provision of, a law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory, persons of a particular race, colour or national or ethnic origin do not enjoy a right that is enjoyed by persons of another race, colour or national or ethnic origin, or enjoy a right to a more limited extent than persons of another race, colour or national or ethnic origin, then, notwithstanding anything in that law, persons of the first-mentioned race, colour or national or ethnic origin shall, by force of this section, enjoy that right to the same extent as persons of that other race, colour or national or ethnic origin.”
    A question that arises from S.10(1): Is this NT Government employment policy a statement that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander citizens do not enjoy the same rights as everyone else under the Australian Constitution in the NT?


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