As the biggest user of land, often that owned by Aboriginal peoples, there is an increasing need for agriculture to improve engagement with Indigenous peoples. The benefits for agriculture are aplenty; the ability to boost agricultural productivity, build Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) in the community, diversify the sector’s ageing and largely non-Indigenous workforce, build a new story understanding the truth and reconciliation needed for our industry and establish partnerships with the biggest landholders, even under Western law.
Despite the growing demand for an agricultural workforce in Australia, Indigenous peoples are underemployed across the sector, representing just 2.1% of the current workforce. Work is needed to address the low university rates of Indigenous peoples in agriculture and the lack of an Indigenous research and development corporation or self-determining structure for Indigenous agriculture. Reconciliation Action Plans, university scholarships and better retention and promotion of Indigenous employees provide significant opportunity to build pipelines for Indigenous talent, while reducing unemployment rates of First Nations peoples and creating pathways for ongoing connection to country.
Three Key Learnings:
- Indigenous people have land title over 60% of Australia and have the only growing youth demographic in Australia- this presents a great opportunity for partnership!
- An Indigenous workforce is becoming a social norm across corporate and small businesses in Australia. Agriculture has a lot of work to do and needs to be aware of the complex history when engaging Indigenous workers.
- We need to encourage an Indigenous agricultural sector in Australia- through Indigenous-led research, advocacy and programs.
Joshua Gilbert is a Worimi man who lives and works on country. Josh is a Senior Researcher at the UTS Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research and is completing his PhD at Charles Sturt University, supported by the Food Agility CRC, focusing on the post-colonial involvement of Indigenous peoples in Western agricultural systems. He was recently recognised internationally for his work, announced in the inaugural 50 Next: People Shaping the Future of Gastronomy cohort. Josh is on the board for Indigenous Business Australia, the NSW Aboriginal Housing Office, KU Children's Services and the Australian Conservation Foundation and is the Aboriginal Co-Chair of Reconciliation NSW. He was recently appointed to the Future Drought Fund Consultative Committee.