Blak Nation Podcast conversations – cultural safety in the workplace

8 Oct 2021

Indigenous employees working in Indigenous affairs are living the stories at home and at work, and that comes at a cost

Cultural safety at work is an important topic in our community – we see the impact it has on our people. It is not a tick the box exercise or a set and forget policy that sits on the intranet. It is about a deliberate and determined commitment to understand and rectify behaviour sets that give rise to cultural harm to Indigenous people within the company. Despite companies having diversity and inclusion policies, we see the continued compounding of trauma in the workplace.

These are the conversations that a new podcast is bringing forward – the conversations that Indigenous people are having with one another, and that might not be heard or listened to in corporations and organisations.

IndigenousX Presents: Blak Nation has recently looked at how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are managing trauma and wellness in the spaces where they work and live. The episode Indigenous Journalism and Trauma addresses the need to recognise the experiences of Indigenous employees working in the area of Indigenous affairs, particularly highlighting the trauma that is so embedded in Indigenous issues due to colonisation and forced assimilation, as well as the suppression of bureaucratic systems and covert racism that affects Indigenous employees.

The podcast guests discussed the ethical responsibility and accountability that Indigenous employees carry in regards to their communities when they work in these spaces, and the changes that need to be worked through for employers to value the wellbeing of their Indigenous employees working within Indigenous affairs and the work environment that comes with it.

The mental health costs of working in these spaces is often unseen, as is the cost of self determination as an Indigenous employee working within the structures of an organisation for the main goal of closing the inequality gaps across this nation. There is an emotional attachment for Indigenous employees working in Indigenous affairs, because they are living the stories day in and day out in their own families and communities, as well as in their work. The burden of best knowing how to respond to a situation means this work isn’t just a 9-5pm job.

Often the burden of having that specialised cultural knowledge leaves the employee burned out. They may be unacknowledged for their expertise and traumatised by coming up against barriers in workplaces unfit to deal with spaces of trauma.

The cycle of trauma is not only with the work an Indigenous employee does but the way in which workplaces create barriers for Indigenous employees to do their job.

This often results in Indigenous people feeling lost and not supported in a system with a non-Indigenous mindset. For Indigenous people working in Indigenous affairs and issues it is not just in the physical form but also emotional – it’s the human response to a human problem of working to solve trauma experienced and inflicted by others.

Organisations have a common understanding to not bring emotion into workplace decisions but that understanding wasn’t designed by Indigenous people. Your Indigeneity carries through to making decisions because we are connected to community solutions by being accountable.

Blak Nation’s episode Indigenous Wellness explored the differences between the western mindset and the Indigenous mindset of coping with trauma and managing wellness. It identifies the need to decolonise the western mindset and reconnect with country and people.

Both episodes describe how we can better manage the workplace and our personal lives by staying true to cultural ways. It starts with respecting Indigenous employees, redefining what is best for them culturally in the spaces they work, and valuing the contribution an Indigenous employee brings to an organisation through cultural ways of knowing. These conversations are important – they can make change and expand understanding around the Indigenous employee, their expertise, the impact on them culturally and spiritually, and also their knowledge in shaping self-care for themselves and the communities they work in.

You can learn more about the podcast and listen to the episodes here.

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