Make us count: Understanding Aboriginal women's experiences in Victorian public sector workplaces

The research looked at Aboriginal women’s careers in the Victorian public sector.

The research team

Griffith and Macquarie Universities:

  • Associate Professor Debbie Bargallie
  • Professor Bronwyn Carlson
  • Madi Day

What was the research about?

The research focused on Aboriginal women working in the Victorian public sector. It looked at their career pathways, experiences and workplace challenges.

How was the research conducted?

The Aboriginal research team led the data collection, analysis and compiled the final report and recommendations.

The research included:

  • yarning sessions (Indigenous cultural dialogue that focuses on collaboration and sharing)
  • analysing workplace gender audit data
  • reviewing academic papers, reports and media commentary
  • surveys.

What did the research find?

  • Aboriginal women face barriers to getting jobs and promotions.
  • They find mentoring, networking, and seeing other Aboriginal women in leadership valuable. Being recognised for their contributions and experiences matters to them.
  • Many Aboriginal women felt unsatisfied, undervalued and unsuccessful at obtaining progression. This is often because of insecure jobs. They also do unpaid work and are expected to represent all Aboriginal communities.
  • Racism affects Aboriginal women daily, both from individuals and systems.
  • They need better workplace discrimination and sexual harassment policies.


Recommendations for public sector organisations

  • Recognise and acknowledge that racism and gender discrimination exist. Actively work to change racist systems, policies and practices.
  • Conduct more research focused on workplace discrimination and inequities.  Use this data to inform policy and practice decision making.
  • Engage in research on the employment experiences of Aboriginal people with disability and/or those who identify as LGBTIQA+.
  • Improve recruitment for Aboriginal women. Create plans for their individual career growth.
  • Offer more jobs outside of metropolitan areas.
  • Identify flexible work options, including hybrid work
  • Recruit more Aboriginal women, particularly in leadership.
  • Help contract workers move into ongoing positions if desired.
  • Acknowledge and pay Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff for cultural work beyond their duties.
  • Create specific roles for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment, education, and mentoring.
  • Work with Aboriginal people to improve complaint policies.
  • Develop an anti-racism policy led by Aboriginal people. Look at recruitment, progression and exits.
  • Educate staff about race, gender, and the effects of colonialism.
  • Hold an annual networking event for Aboriginal women in the public sector.  

Read the full report

Make Us Count: Understanding Aboriginal Women’s Experiences in Victorian Public Sector Workplaces
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Citing this research

Bargallie D, Carlson B and Day M ‘Make Us Count: Understanding Aboriginal women’s experiences in Victorian Public Sector workplaces’, Griffith and Macquarie Universities, 2023