No Indigenous executives at hostel agency

Senator McCarthy questioned the lack of senior Indigenous staff at Aboriginal Hostels Ltd.
Senator McCarthy questioned the lack of senior Indigenous staff at Aboriginal Hostels Ltd.

An agency responsible for providing accommodation to Aboriginal people does not have any Indigenous senior staff.

Almost half of all Aboriginal Hostels Limited employees are Indigenous.

Chief executive Dave Chalmers has set a target of 66 per cent Indigenous staffing levels by the end of next year.

Mr Chalmers intends to reach the goal through targeted recruiting and training programs.

But under questioning from Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy, he conceded it would be difficult.

"Frankly we have been in a steady decline from the high some decades ago of 80 per cent Indigenous staffing," he told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Friday.

"It's just been a gradual decline and I intend to arrest that."

Mr Chalmers, who was appointed chief executive earlier this year, said he and the chairman were acutely aware the agency's executive did not have Indigenous representation.

"That will be something that we can't remedy in the short term because the recruiting has already taken place and we have people in place for a number of years," he said.

"But I would be looking to ensure that we have opportunity for senior executives, as well as across the organisation, so we are better represented."

Mr Chalmers said he would endeavour to fill the positions by mentoring existing staff but it was more likely the Indigenous senior executives would be recruited externally.

"We will use both strategies but I think the truth is to get senior executives in we will be recruiting broadly and looking for someone who has the skill sets already," he told the committee.

"We'll certainly look to do that, to develop our staff and give our staff opportunities to achieve more senior positions within AHL.

"But because we're an (Australian Public Service) organisation, we'd be looking to equip our staff to fulfil jobs in the APS more broadly."

Aboriginal Hostels Limited was established in 1973 to provide accommodation for Indigenous people away from home to study, work or receive medical treatment.

It runs 47 hostels across the country and was allocated $40 million in this year's federal budget.

The agency has previously had Indigenous chief executives.

Australian Associated Press