Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have a considerably lower rate of workforce participation compared to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men (51.5 per cent and 65 per cent respectively).

 

Workforce participation rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women compared with all women
Source: ABS, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15, cat. no. 4714.0, persons 15 years and over.

The workforce participation rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women (15+) are 51.5%, compared with all women (15+) at 59.2%, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men (15+) at 65%.

The Government is committed to ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women play a central role in a strong and diverse Australian economy – as employees, employers, business operators, entrepreneurs, and leaders. Indigenous women are achieving great things and are providing an example of success for future generations across Australia.

We are working in partnership with Indigenous women to ensure our First Australians are able to take up opportunities in our economy and be leaders in their communities. For example, under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, the Australian Government is supporting the Wirrpanda Foundation’s Deadly Sista Girlz Program to empower and enable young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls to make good choices for themselves.

We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women continue to face unique challenges when joining the workforce. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls often have caring responsibilities at an earlier age — for children and for family. A third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have their first child by the age of 20, often before connecting with the workforce.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children experience disproportionately high rates of family and domestic violence throughout their lives, which has significant and long lasting impacts on their capacity to engage in education, work and community life.

The Government is working with Indigenous communities to address the scourge of violence through a $46 million investment through the Women’s Safety Package and Third Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children as well as significant investment under the IAS to address the drivers of violence.

Through the Indigenous Business Sector Strategy, the Government is investing in the next generation of entrepreneurs which breaks down barriers for future generations and creates a positive cycle of economic empowerment that will build over time. Indigenous women have a particularly important role to play as entrepreneurs, bringing a unique perspective for their customers.

The Government continues to ensure its mainstream employment services feature a range of interventions, activities and complementary programs to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander job seekers, including women.

Where are we?

We already have a strong record of supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

From July 2015, the Government is spending almost $49 million on education, supporting more than 9,200 young Indigenous women.

The Government has provided $99 million to support around 7,500 Indigenous Australians into guaranteed jobs through Vocational Training and Employment Centres – 41 per cent taken up by women.

The Government has committed to a 3 per cent Indigenous employment target across the Commonwealth public sector by 2018.

The Government has committed to a target of 3 per cent of Commonwealth procurement contracts to Indigenous suppliers by 2020 to drive the growth of the Indigenous business sector and Indigenous employment. The first year target was exceeded – the Government awarded nearly six times its 2015–16 target of 256 contracts (0.05 per cent) to Indigenous businesses.

The Government has established an Indigenous Entrepreneurs Fund so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can start or grow a small business and run enterprises that employ other people.

Investments in addressing family violence in Indigenous communities include:

  • $21 million under the Women’s Safety Package to ensure that police are better equipped to protect victims and hold perpetrators to account, in remote communities across the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia;
  • $25 million under the Third Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children to deliver trauma-informed interventions to change violent behaviours, build stronger families and better support victims of family violence;
  • Significant investment under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) to address the drivers of violence, including alcohol and drug treatment services, support to improve remote policing and activities to prevent offending, re-offending and reduce violence.

Key Actions 2017-18

  • Create opportunities for Indigenous Australians to find work, accelerating progress toward Closing the Gap between employment outcomes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through a $55.7 million Indigenous Employment package:
    • From 1 January 2018, the Closing the Gap – Employment Services Package will deliver pre-employment training and mentoring for Indigenous participants, and expand access to the Transition to Work program to all Indigenous job seekers aged 21 years or under;
    • jobactive will be boosted to deliver up-front intensive employment services to Indigenous job seekers, including an increase in the Indigenous wage subsidy from $6,500 to $10,000, and the establishment of Indigenous community‑based work experience projects with meaningful career pathways.
  • Provide $263 million to expand the ParentsNext program. In the 2017-18 Budget, the Government has committed $113 million to provide an intensive service offering to all ParentsNext participants in 30 locations. In 20 of these locations, a high number of Parenting Payment recipients are Indigenous. The increased services will include additional pre-employment training, mentoring, work experience, wage subsidies and job opportunities to help recipients plan and prepare for employment by the time their children start school.  
  • Provide additional funding for the Prison to Work program to provide all Indigenous prisoners access to in-prison employment services to help them prepare for post-release employment. The new Prison to Work program will have a particular focus on assisting Indigenous women prisoners to help that make successful transitions once released from prison.
  • Invest an additional $138 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students through the Government’s 1967 Referendum 50th Anniversary Indigenous Education Package including $41 million to directly support Indigenous women and girls’ access and engagement in education and employment. The Package will also include $25 million for a new STEM Scholarships Fund to support Indigenous students to study and secure jobs in STEM fields, including a $15 million contribution to a Girls STEM academy.
  • Increase progress against the target of 3 per cent Indigenous employment across the Commonwealth public sector by 2018 — this has already shown progress with the Indigenous workforce increasing to 2.4 per cent.
  • Greater access to finance and business support suited to the needs of Indigenous businesses with a focus on Indigenous entrepreneurs and start-ups from 1 July 2017. This is an important part of the Government’s plan to supercharge the Indigenous business sector – the Indigenous Business Sector Strategy (IBSS) – which has been released for consultation. The IBSS includes an Indigenous Entrepreneurs Capital Scheme to provide Indigenous businesses access to private sector finance, as well as better support services.
  • Fund pre-employment projects via the new Launch into Work program which will provide training, mentoring and work experience to assist job seekers to become work ready. Projects are flexible and some will be designed to meet the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
  • Identify talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women leaders to be considered as part of the BoardLinks program.
  • Continue funding for girls’ academies in high schools, so that young women can realise their leadership potential.
  • Support Community Development Program providers to increase their focus on getting young women and girls who leave school early into vocational training, where re-engagement in school or other education is not possible.
  • Consider trialling local and best practice models for supporting young mothers to complete their education and transition into work (for example, Cape York Girls Academy). 
  • Strengthen the evidence base, including investigating the cultural and behavioural motivators for why girls and young women leave school before they complete Year 12.
  • Work with Indigenous Australians to address the impact of family violence on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, including through $25 million under the Third Action Plan to support trauma-informed therapeutic services, intensive family focused case management and holistic, case managed crisis support to Indigenous women experiencing family violence.