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Education the key for Indigenous inclusive recruitment

In the latest edition of The Brief, we sat down with John Briggs, a proud member of the Yorta and Gunnai nations and founder of JB Consultancy to discuss how he tailors his training sessions to have honest conversations about Australian Indigenous cultures, peoples, and history.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

This quote by Malcolm X, a human rights activist, and a popular figure during the American civil rights movement, is how JB Consultancy is creating a shift for equal opportunity for Indigenous Australians in the government, private, corporate, early years and education sector organisations Australia-wide.

John Briggs is a proud member of the Yorta Yorta and Gunnai nations and a leading specialist in the field of training and facilitation. He founded JB Consultancy in 2009 to make a real difference and a positive impact in people’s lives by providing specialist guidance and education around Indigenous inclusive recruitment.

JB Consultancy continually strives to offer services that are tailored and unique, bringing people back to having honest conversations about culture and history. John found that too often, organisations were not clear about what potentially could be a beneficial, valuable, and rewarding process in learning and understanding Indigenous culture.

“The quote by Malcom X is how we have started seeing a shift for equal opportunities for Indigenous Australia by educating the private corporate sector. We take the focus away from the political correctness and over-sensitivity of the subject matter and create culturally safe environments for audiences to ask questions, discuss and learn more,” he said.

The first step for a business engaging JB Consultancy is cultural awareness and confidence training which is a core subject. This training delivers content from evidence-based research through conversation and interactive workshopping. The training incorporates professional conversations that uncovers the idea behind ‘exclusion and inclusion’ as well as deconstructs unconscious bias and other blockers preventing effective practice.

There are then two or three electives for the business to choose from, culturally-safe recruitment training, racism and racial profiling training and working effectively with Indigenous employees and communities.

Once the training sessions have been completed, JB Consultancy offers mentoring and coaching services to assist and educate organisations and the general community about the benefits of start-up Indigenous employment. There is assistance with setting Indigenous employment retention goals and devising plans for the successful implementation of Reconciliation Action Plans and /or Indigenous engagement strategies.

“We are continually developing strategies and change with the times because things are constantly evolving. We need to adjust our training sessions to ensure what we are teaching is current,” John said.

He also said he was seeing improvement for Indigenous employment and procurement in the private sector.

Most government departments now have Indigenous engagement strategies and/or Reconciliation Action Plans that target Indigenous employment, procurement, and Indigenous community engagement.

And it is not just in the public sector, the private corporate sector has reached out to JB Consultancy and started to ensure their workplaces are culturally inclusive. This success in the private corporate sector can only continue to be achieved by businesses driving cultural awareness and employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians.

“Leaders that want to offer Indigenous inclusive employment should know the reason for why they are doing this and understand and substantiate the reasons of doing this from an economic and social perspective,” John said.

“You should understand the true history of Indigenous Australians and how the consequences of racism and poverty has impacted on them. People have access to information at their fingertips with the internet, but you must research the facts and not opinions. You do not have to agree with any of this, but I just want you to understand it.” This is a common statement John makes in his work.

There are many businesses who have engaged John’s services, but one of the biggest triumphs has been the work being done with Coles supermarkets.

In 2010, Coles reached out to JB Consultancy. They had 65 team members who identified with Indigenous backgrounds and wanted to increase their Indigenous employment figures. The target was set at three per cent of their workforce to have Indigenous backgrounds on a national level.

Fast forward 12 years, the training was so effective that currently there are more than 5000 Indigenous employees hired by Coles. The success was due to the pragmatic response by Coles to engage in Indigenous cultural competency training sessions delivered to all levels of the Coles organisation consistently over this period. Persistence pays off.

“This training was delivered to executives, regional manages, store and departmental managers, people and culture talent acquisition, hiring teams, community partners (ongoing mentoring) and other stakeholders in the business. This cultural competency broadly spread keeps the training foundational and safe from staff turnover,” John said.

JB Consultancy has seen a similar success story with Kmart, where the business identified stores with high Indigenous populations in the area but low Indigenous employment rates. John said he loved that honesty and positive disruption to welfare dependence and community disengagement.

Despite working with Kmart stores nationally as of now, it all started with Kmart Kalgoorlie. The store was constantly targeted for anti-social behaviour daily, which was impacting heavily on not just the team’s morale but the customers experience. These experiences were being shared around the town via social media which was impacting sales and contributed to customers being selective with which times they would shop.

After John started conducting training sessions with all employees focussed on community engagement through employment, the anti-social behaviour stopped in the store and Indigenous customers were coming to the store to chat with staff and asking about employment opportunities.

With 15 years of experience working as a specialist in Indigenous engagement for a Commonwealth department combined with his personable style of facilitation, which is respectful and non-confrontational, he has earnt a reputation as a leader in Indigenous consultation and advice.

“The way the training is conducted is by consistency and evolvement to change,” he said. “JB Consultancy focuses on compassion, kindness, empathy, and humanity. I am passionate about what I do and for the future needs of Indigenous inclusion in employment is career development opportunities at all levels of the industry.”

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