The University of Newcastle (UON) has released the Maligagu Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy and Action Plan 2020-2025 which will see the increased employment of First Nations staff at the institution.

Currently the UON’s Indigenous workforce sits at 2.3 percent, and the strategy aims to increase this rate to 3.9 percent. With 78 First Nations staff members already working in the institution, the university will employ 40 more staff to reach this target.

The action plan is based around four key priority areas:

  • Attraction and recruitment
  • Environment and retention
  • Development and advancement
  • Governance and leadership.

Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Leadership, Nathan Towney said the university hopes to create a strong community of First Nations staff across the institution by 2025.

“I’d like to think we would have a large group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people employed right across the university [by 2025], we do have Aboriginal people employed in most divisions but we want to increase that so that every faculty has not only professional staff but academic staff,” Mr Towney said.

“Part of the strategy is employing people but making sure the support structures are in place both professionally and culturally for those here at the university.”

“Once a semester we plan to establish an Indigenous employee network, basically getting everyone together regardless of where they work in the university, and creating a sense of community and mob for everybody.”

UON will work with their Indigenous Employment Partner from the Faculties and Divisions team, Lindsay Hardy, who will work with community and other universities to share available positions and find people to fill roles.

“It is about collaborating with other universities and trying to fill gaps and supporting one another where we can,” Mr Towney said.

Creating a strong presence of First Nations staff within the university provides powerful support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

“It supports our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who are studying at the university, it allows all of our staff to learn from First Nations people, staff members act as role models and not only for the First Nations students within the university but in the community as well,” Mr Towney said.

The word Maligagu, in the language of the Darkinjung peoples where UON’s Ourimbah campus sits, means ‘to shine’. UON has had a long-standing commitment to providing opportunities for First Nations peoples, further shown in the development of the new strategy.

“Our university has a strong history of leadership in providing opportunities for our Indigenous peoples to work and study, but we are not resting on that reputation, we will continue to raise the bar,” Mr Towney said.

“A lot of our people want rewarding career opportunities that really are going to benefit Aboriginal people, and I know that is what really drives me, creating opportunities to try and better our people and university is a place where you can do that.

“University has changed my life and my family’s life as well, and I think being able to support other Aboriginal people through higher education is something very powerful and it really does change people’s lives, and it changes generations.

“It is an exciting place to work, the benefits are fantastic, I would encourage people to look at higher education as a wonderful place to work.”

By Rachael Knowles