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QG Breakfast - 8 May 2019

Queensland Health, in partnership with the Public Service Commission, holds three breakfast events per year to help promote initiatives associated with the Queensland Government Inclusion and Diversity Strategy 2015 – 2020.

The QG Breakfast Series, hosted by the Women’s Network was initiated by the Deputy Director-General, Corporate Services Division, Queensland Health who is the sponsor of the Department of Health Women’s Network. The first breakfast event was held in November 2017 and has continued to grow since its inception, addressing topics such as:

  • Supporting women to stay connected and engaged in a changing world.
  • Owning and leading performance: building resilience and leading teams through cultural change.
  • Transformation and better ways of working, A panel discussion on flexible work arrangements.
  • Representation Matters: How can men advocate for, and act to, advance gender equity?

Workplace inclusion—leading an inclusive workforce

The first breakfast for 2019 was held on Wednesday 8 May, with the theme: Workplace inclusion—leading an inclusive workforce.

Across the Queensland Government, we are aiming to build our workforces and workplaces to better reflect the diverse community we live in. While the benefits of genuine inclusion in workplaces have been well documented, our challenge now is embracing a culture of inclusion and diversity and how we best prepare and support our people and workplaces to be more inclusive.

This event shared personal stories from a diverse panel and explored what needs to be done to support this environment in our workplaces to provide everyone the opportunity to flourish.

Panel members included:

  • Ms Megan Barry, Deputy Commissioner, Public Service Commission - panel facilitator
  • Ms Jane O’Leary, Research Director, Diversity Council Australia
  • Mr Mick Gooda, former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Ms Renee Kelly, Vision Australia trainee, a vision impaired perspective
  • Mr Ian Montague, State Manager, Queensland, National Disability Services
  • Cr Dai Le, Fairfield Council; Advisory Board Member, Multicultural NSW; and founder of DAWN.

Mr Robert Setter, Commission Chief Executive, Public Service Commission also highlighted the public sector’s inclusion and diversity activities.

Upcoming QG Breakfast Series events

The QG Breakfast Series events are held three times per year. There will be two additional events in 2019 on Thursday 8 August and Tuesday 8 October. Please keep an eye out for these events.

Further information:

Podcasts from 8 May breakfast

What guests hope to take away

Interviews with attendees.

Podcast transcript

My name is Vanessa Nielsen, I work for Queensland Fire and Emergency Services in the Brisbane Northern zone.  I am hoping to take away from here more information about the inclusion and diversity factors and how that can be incorporated into the working population of QFES type thing.  I am also a member of the Allies of Inclusion Program within QFES so I am hoping to take away some information that I can feed back.

I’m Lyn Richards from Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, I am from their Human Capital Management area and I am hoping to take away much more inspiration back to the Department about how we can be more diverse and inclusive and I am also part of the Allies of inclusion program within QFES.

My name is Wendy Moffat, I’m from the Department of Environment and Science and I am here today to I guess just learn more about what the speakers have to deliver, I think it will be a really interesting content so I have been in Public Service Commission sessions before and they have always been really worth going to and yeah very valued information comes out of them.

Hi I am Gemma Levard, I work with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and today I am hoping to take away some practical insights into how we can make people more included in our workforce and how we can get some diversity into our workforce.

So my name is Wendy Braithwaite, I work at Health Support Queensland and again like everybody else it’s sort of hearing a little bit about what other areas have done, what has been successful, maybe what hasn’t worked so learning from our mistakes and meeting other people.

Hello I’m Ruchi and I am from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Biosecurity Queensland.  What I am hoping to take away from here is gain some of the wisdom and learn from experience of the speakers and also see if possible network with other departments and learn more about other areas of the Queensland government.

My name is Sylvie Pejanovich, I’m from Health Support Queensland.  What I hope to take away is some contacts, I have already met some wonderful people and also to find out what I need to reflect on and I suppose take into the workplace and do better.

My name is Kathleen Vanderplashen, I’m from Queensland Health in the Office of the Director-General.  So what I hope to take away from today is just a little bit more insight into what people are facing when they have challenges, whether they are visually impaired or have you know other disabilities so yeah I’m just hoping to get a bit more insight into you know the challenges they are facing.

I am Kaylee Norris and I worked for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and I would like to take away, I am part of the Diversity and Inclusion working group at DAF and I would like to listen to the panel, hear some stories and potentially take away some strategies that we can implement back in DAF in our workplace.


Kylie Ramsden, Corporate Services Division, Queensland Health

Podcast transcript

Good morning and welcome to the Queensland breakfast series, the first one for 2019 hosted by the Department of Health Women’s Network and in partnership with the Public Service Commission.  My name is Kylie Ramsden and it’s my great pleasure and privilege to be hosting today.  Firstly I would like to respectfully acknowledge the Turrbal, Jagera and Yuraga peoples, the traditional owners and custodians on the land on which this event is taking place.  And elders past, present and emerging.

Today’s event is the first in the 2019 Queensland government breakfast series and the theme for this morning is workplace inclusion, leading an inclusive workforce.  You will hear personal stories from a great panel and explore what we need to do to support this environment and our workplaces and to provide everyone with an opportunity to flourish.  To support workplace inclusion and the theme today we have invited Vision Australia, On Queue, Help employment and Training and the Women’s Legal Service Queensland to be present today and provide additional information about the fantastic work that they do and how they are supporting workplaces to be more inclusive and you will have seen there are booths at the back with more information and there are brochures and things on your plates.  So please make the time to see them before you leave today.

It’s a privilege today to welcome colleagues and leaders from across the sector and in particular we would like to quickly acknowledge Rob Setter, the Commissioner and Chief Executive of the Public Service Commission, Megan Barry, Deputy Commissioner, Public Service Commission.  Tony Power, Director-General, Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning.  Claire O’Connor, Director-General Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors.  Robyn Turbit, Assistant Director-General Department of Housing and Public Works.  Barb Phillips, Deputy Director-General Corporate Services Division Queensland Health, executive sponsor of the Department of Health Women’s Network and the sponsor of this event.  And other Deputy Directors General from across government and Queensland Health, welcome to you all.

So today a bit of an overview of what is going to happen.  Starting off we will have an opening address by Barb Phillips then we will hear from Rob Setter and Rob will talk a bit more about what the Public Service Commission is doing to lead inclusive workplaces.  Counsellor Dai Le is here all the way from New South Wales, Fairfield Council.  Dai is an advisory board member also for multicultural New South Wales and founder of Dawn and she is here to talk about her personal journey and her absolute passion and dedication to the issue of diversity in the workplace.

We will conclude then with a panel conversation which Megan Barry will facilitate.  There will be a question and answer time after that so please think about the sorts of things you might like to ask the panel.  It’s a really fantastic opportunity to have such great thought leaders in this space up here for you to question and ask those burning questions that you might have about inclusion and diversity.

That panel today is comprised of Jane O’Leary.  Jane is a Research Director of the Diversity Council Australia and has fantastic knowledge in inclusion and diversity and has a particular interest in equal opportunity for women in the workforce. Mick Goodar who is a former aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social Justice Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission so a real privilege to have him here today.  René Kelly, a Vision Australia trainee.  René will provide us with her perspective as the person living with a vision impairment.  René was also a part of an employment program run at the Department of Health and with Vision Australia sponsoring that program as well.

Ian Montague is the State Manager for Queensland National Disability Services.  The NDS is Australia’s peak body for non-government disability services and of course Dai will also jump into that panel for us as well.

Opening address

Barbara Phillips, Deputy Director-General, Corporate Services Division, Queensland Health

Podcast transcript

Thank you very much.  I would like to pay my respects and respectfully acknowledge the Turrbal, Jagera and Yuraga people so the traditional owners and custodians on the land on which this event is taking place and the elders past, present and emerging.  Thank you very much for coming, it is a privilege to be here.  I always, always am nervous but really enjoy being here and seeing all the people that come.  And I have to say some of the panel members thank you so much for being available today.  I was speaking to them earlier and there was a few nerves about coming, I said this is the greatest gig.  This audience is wonderful.  A) they are very kind, B) we feed them and so they are very generous and please don’t be anxious because people who come to this breakfast want to be here and they want to hear you.  So thank you very much for coming and being a part of the discussion today.

This event is hosted by the Department of Health Women’s Network and the network is a pathway for inspiration, change and equality and has been established to inform and support our department to progress towards a more inclusive workplace.  We are here this morning to hear about the topic of workplace inclusion and how we lead an inclusive workforce.  The stories you hear today I hope will move you and help give you greater insight into what it is like to live in someone else’s shoes and in particular what it is like to experience a regular workday from someone else’s perspective.

Our goal is to build a workforce and a workplace that better reflects the diverse community we live in, not just because it’s the right thing to do but because it brings better outcomes for us all.  I have to say as being one of the agencies that has had an opportunity to have folk come and work with us as Kylie said earlier in the opening, address around vision impaired.  I can’t tell you what a privilege and a pleasure it was to have those people be a part of our workforce.  Actually they gave us much more than I think we gave them and we didn’t really reflect on that until we had the opportunity to have these people come and work with us.  And I would just like to say for those of you who are thinking about how you can do it, it may feel a little hard at the beginning because sometimes it is a little difficult to think how do we incorporate this, what do we have to do that’s differently.  Just take the step, talk to the people and it will work and it’s a real joy to have people that you can work alongside that you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do so.  So I strongly encourage everybody to engage in that.  Inclusion and diversity are often used interchangeably.  I had a greater insight into understanding the difference between diversity and inclusion.  When I found the quote that said diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.

Inclusion occurs when a diversity of people of different ages, cultural backgrounds and genders feel valued and respected, have access to opportunities and resources and can contribute their perspectives and talents to improve an organisation.  In most organisations inclusion and diversity is best approached in a top-down, bottom-up manner.  One where our Directors General and Chief Executives actively engage leaders and when we engage all our people at all levels of the organisation.  Often people are eager to join in the process but let them know how and the confidence to do so.

We as leaders need to build an environment where everyone feels confident and has the opportunity to talk about the different ways we can contribute and support and how it impacts others in the workplace.  Research from the Diversity Council of Australia says if you work in an inclusive team you are 10 times more likely to be highly effective than workers in non-inclusive teams.  Nine times more likely to innovate and five times more likely to provide excellent customer service.

The benefits of an inclusive workforce are well researched.  Our challenge now is creating and embracing a culture of inclusion and diversity and in doing so to continually check our progress by asking how do we best prepare and support our people and workplaces to be inclusive.  Does everyone have what they need to do the job to be the best they can.  Please enjoy your breakfast.

Leading inclusive workplaces

Rob Setter, Commission Chief Executive, Public Service Commission

Podcast transcript

MC: I am really privileged to now invite and welcome to the stage Rob Setter.  Rod is here as we said earlier to talk about what the sector is doing around this really important topic so welcome Rob.

And good morning and thank you so much Kylie for that nice welcome.  I too would like to acknowledge the Turrbal, Jagera and Yuraga peoples, the traditional custodians and owners of the land in which we meet today and acknowledge and respect the elders past, present and emerging who give us strength, who give us inspiration and courage to all Queenslanders as we learn, work and live together to ensure an ever more inclusive and cohesive Queensland.  I would also like to acknowledge Queensland Health in putting together events such as this, in particular Barb who works tirelessly to present high-quality, high standard events and even the food was nice, oh that’s fantastic Barb so thank you.  And also acknowledge the panellists who will be speaking later and again the sort of lived experience messages are just so powerful and strong and I look forward to hearing of their experience this morning as I am sure you would be.

From a whole of government perspective it is true to say that it is not just lip service that we aspire to build an ever more diverse and ever more inclusive workforce.  From my perspective  there are many reasons why leaders at all levels should strive and in fact in Queensland Government do strive to make sure that their workforce is ever more diverse and probably more importantly ever more inclusive.

We are of course in Queensland Government the state’s largest employer and not the least of these reasons to ensure the public sector workforce truly reflects the communities that we serve and that’s an important ambition in my view being in the area of public work.  It just makes business sense as Barb has pointed out this morning to achieve this but I think the real challenge for each and every one of us is to put diversity and inclusion, make it so ever present that it is part of our DNA.

In 2016 the Queensland Government Chief Executive Leadership Board agreed on diversity targets for the Queensland public sector workforce.  Each department Chief Executive, and this wouldn’t be known to most of you I don’t think actually agreed to be accountable as part of their performance agreement for working towards the departments whole of government diversity targets.  Our idea was that they would look at their own workforce and the constraints on achieving that by 2022, they would establish targets that they would aspire to work towards every year and put in place strategies to do that but if you then rolled it all up by 2022 the Queensland public sector should very much more mirror the make up and constituency of the Queensland communities and I am going to report a little bit on how that is going this morning.

All of this work is actually linked to our overarching inclusion and diversity strategy and that guides our work and it has been a bit of a blueprint for establishing what is important to us as a public sector workforce.  And in my role as Public Service Commissioner it is actually my job to try and engender support and fellowship for that strategy to support through the PSC, the work of agencies of individuals and teams within agencies to achieve on the ambitions that are within that inclusion and diversity strategy.

As part of this process we set some fairly ambitious targets to achieve by 2022.  Looking at women in senior roles and you would think in a public service where 70 percent of the public service is women that the fact that when you get to the top levels, the SES and the Chief Executive that they are by far in the minority.  You would think that that is just an anomaly.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is another of our target areas and as the figures show we have a long way to go in that particular space to achieve a target as low as actually three percent which is touted as the proportion of Queenslanders that are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.  And I will proudly tomorrow along with Dr Chris Sara be launching an indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander careers pathway service which is a commitment by the leadership board to create opportunities to accelerate career development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders which is actually an inclusive one based on contributions by managers to get success in that space, by individuals to want to be building a career in the public service.  By leaders within the public service creating opportunities for people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to be aware of what their strengths and capabilities are but ultimately to have increasing the reflected in the public sector work for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’s at all levels through the public service.

There is people with a disability and this is probably the greatest challenge that we have in the Queensland public service.  When I was here in an earlier iteration within government back in the days of Anna Bligh, early stages there I think there were around six or seven percent identified with a disability.  The figures today are around three so something has happened in that period that has seen people having confidence to identify with disability to not do so or indeed that in fact people are not seeing the public service as a safe and supportive workplace in which they would work.  People from non-English speaking backgrounds, our target is high there but our population is strong in that space and so while the target is modest it’s actually helping us to be a bit more inclusive in how we operate.

It is fair to say as I indicated progress today against these targets has been mixed.  Figures from December 2018 reveal we have an increased number of women in senior positions and our talent pipeline particularly in the SO and SES2 and equivalent areas is actually very strong.  Great talent and depth being identified in that particular space.  But on the other hand we have significant work to do to improve representation for people with a disability.

We are continuing to focus on fostering diversity but in fact it’s actually much more than simply meeting target.  As Kevin Cox the former Antidiscrimination Commissioner for Queensland observed not all diverse organisations are inclusive and certainly not all inclusive organisations are diverse.  Diversity and also isolation is not enough.  We actually need to foster an inclusive workplace culture across the public sector and promote the skills and insights of our employees irrespective of their gender, their ethnicity, their generation, their sexual orientation or their impairment.  There is no shortage of research that talks to the benefits of making inclusivity a workplace priority.  Deloitte once outlined that inclusion means adaptation, not just tokenism, assimilation and tolerance of those who are different from the norm, but an inclusive workplace is not just about seeing diversity and demographics across the office, businesses gain value from diversity of thought with results.

Another report from Deloitte found that organisations with inclusive cultures can punch above their weight in a variety of ways.  In terms of achieving a competitive edge and contributing to being an employer of choice, the argument for inclusivity is convincing.  I think a shared understanding of what inclusion means is a crucial factor to ensure organisations like the Queensland public service, like Queensland health, like indeed a HHS, or even within a team so they can realise their ambitions in this particular space.

In her compelling presentation at 1 William Street earlier this year disability advocate Angela Dixon perhaps put it best when she said diversity is who we are, inclusion is how we treat each other.  So what does a truly inclusive workplace like, what is it like?  For me, it’s where people have at their heart a genuine respect and trust for people that they work with.  It is where people enable others to feel safe, to bring their whole selves to work, to perform and be at their best.  It is where people are purposeful and how they foster workplace cultures that embrace difference and see it as a source of enrichment and competitive advantage.  People, it’s no surprise it’s all about people.  Importantly inclusive workplaces attract leaders and employees who are better equipped to collaborate, to adapt, to innovate and indeed make more informed decisions and provide improved services to our customers.

Because our workplaces are not always the smoothness of sailing can I say, as difference by its nature can stretch and challenge us causing us to pause, reflect and often change our approaches as we adapt to new ideas and new ways of working.  And of course for each of you in the room here this is not really a challenge for you because you are here because you believe it.  Some of your work colleagues, some of our work colleagues are yet to really understand the power and importance of that and I think it’s up to each of us to actually help take on that challenge as we return to our workplace.

To better measure the public sector’s progress the PSC recently developed an inclusion index measured through the working for Queensland employee opinion survey.  The index helps us to better understand how different groups of employees feel about fairness, how they feel about the workplace fostering innovation, how they feel about diversity of backgrounds and ideas being appreciated.  How they feel about inclusion and respect in their workplace as well as the system barriers at work, to success at work.  Working for Queensland results demonstrate that the behaviour of leaders significantly impacts employees feelings of inclusion.  This further impacts their experiences of workplace culture.

So how do we equip the sector to better drive the change we need to see?  We must continue to challenge the status quo, we must continue to create environments where employees can feel safe to bring their whole self to work.  The Queensland public sector has a variety of legislative and policy levers at our disposal to affect change but ultimately everybody has a role to play in breaking down the barriers that impact true inclusivity.  People, it’s all about people.

There are of course legal obligations or legislative obligations under the Public Service Act which focus on equality of opportunity.  So it’s not about the law being clear for us in terms of how we should work and respect people.  And indeed agencies at all levels are informed by an enact leadership board endorsed strategies, we are not short in this space either, there is an inclusion and diversity strategy that I have talked to.  There is a gender equity strategy.  There is a gender pay equity review and annual audit process in place.  There is moving ahead as strategic approach for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  There is an LGBTIQ plus inclusion strategy.  All well-meaning, all well purposeful and all making a difference but again people, it’s all about people.

As a sector adopts and adapts to these approaches we are also aware of the challenges to be faced such as conversations around diversity and inclusion should not be one off, that they should be part of business as usual through an employee life-cycle.  Beginning with recruitment and onboarding, a statement of value and expectation and continuing as part of career progression demonstrating commitment.  It is about recognising that many of the barriers faced across diversity groups are similar and we can do much better at integrating our responses as employers.

It’s about understanding their behaviours and attitudes towards difference will take a long time to shift.  It’s about differences need to be embraced and not seen as a deficit.  And of course, but little understood unconscious bias ingrained in our psyche, products where we grew up and who we grew up with must be brought to the surface so that we can commit to change.

Finally being aware of language and the power of our words.  Something we must all take responsibility for giving thought to the impact our choices might have on somebody else in our workplace.  People, it’s all about people.  Leaders or levers in the public sector can be forced us to positive change and indeed are but they need to embrace and encourage that culture of inclusivity, of innovation and diversity of ideas.  Senior leaders in particular, that’s you, have potential for greater impact in this space.  Working for Queensland surveys results indicate major drivers for perception of organisation, as I said are leaders who operate with a high level of integrity and also model behaviour that we expect of our other employees.

Research points to 6 signature traits for highly inclusive leaders and workplaces for you to reflect on.  They are a commitment to inclusion and diversity, a courage to act, cognisance of bias, awareness of bias and a care to an engagement.  A curiosity to learn about others, a cultural intelligence and finally collaboration.  People, it’s all about people.

So as you enjoy the rest of the panel and you enjoy the rest of the breakfast and you get back to your workplaces I encourage you to consider how you can create opportunities for yourself and your colleagues to walk in someone else’s shoes, to gain insights and perspectives from the diversity of people’s experiences.  Open, honest and respectful conversations and relationships go a long way towards breaking down myths and misconceptions and contribute to building inclusive workplaces.  Listening and learning are key.  I encourage you this morning to listen, to learn, to be challenged and be affirmed but above all enjoy the experience.  Enjoy the day, thank you.

The story of Dai Le

Cr Dai Le, Fairfield Councillor, Advisory Board Member of Multicultural New South Wales, and founder of DAWN

Podcast transcript

MC: It is my great pleasure now to introduce Dai Le and I have to say I read through Dai’s bio last night and she has the kind of experience that makes you wonder what on earth you have been doing with your life.  So I, me I have been swanning doing not much at all for 40 years so thanks Dai.  So let me get into the intro and you will see what I mean.  Dai’s mission is to help build an inclusive society where mainstream institutions and organisations genuinely reflect the diverse community that we actually do live in.  Born in Saigon, Vietnam Dai spent many years in refugee camps in south-east Asia before being accepted for resettlement in Australia.  Her childhood experiences and growing up with a dual identity, being Vietnamese in an Australian and Western culture helped to shape her perception of life.  It has also made her a passionate advocate for refugees and migrant communities.  Dai speaks, consults and helps organisations understand the economic and social benefits of leveraging diversity and inclusion as part of their business development, market innovation and corporate responsibility.  She founded Dawn, a platform that gives voice to diverse and inclusive talents who are shaping today’s society.  Dawn definitely walks the talk and with its diverse team contributing to content, network and thought leadership discussion with a greater depth and genuine lens on inclusion and diversity.  A former award-winning journalist, film maker and broadcaster with the ABC, Dai was named one of the AFR Westpac top 100 influential women in Australia in 2014.  With over 20 years of change making experience Dai is a strong believer in the use of storytelling to inspire, educate and inform. Dai currently serves as an advisory board member to Multicultural New South Wales, a government statutory body.  She is on the steering committee for Regional Opportunities Australia and is a former Ambassador for the Fairfield Relay for Life and New South Wales Cancer Council Greater Western Sydney.  She is also a breast cancer survivor so please join me in warmly welcoming Dai to the stage today.

Good morning all.  Before we begin I would also like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet this morning, the Turrbal people, the elders both past and present.  It is such an honour to be here this morning as part of the Queensland Government speaker series among some truly inspiring company and Rob I was just so inspired by the commitment and also Barbara of your leadership to really transform the public service and Queensland Government overall.  And I am excited, I sat there and I thought oh my God you’ve set targets, that’s fantastic.  In New South Wales talking about setting targets is still a bit of a controversial issue and so I think that you taking the lead there and I’m going to take it back to New South Wales and see what we are going to do there.  And as someone who lives and breathes diversity and inclusion I think that what you are doing, what you are setting is a great initiative this morning.

So why I am so passionate about inclusion and diversity in the leadership space in particular.  My family and I escaped Communist Vietnam at the end of April 75 and you know as Kylie mentioned I lived in refugee camps for a few years before being resettled here in Australia in 79.  So we will be marking 40 years calling Australia home this year.  As many of you know the Vietnam war caused hundreds and thousands of Vietnamese to flee and risk their lives on the treacherous oceans and many died on the small wooden boats in search of freedom, safe haven, peace and democracy.

My family was part of that exodus.  So after nearly 3 years in refugee camps we were accepted for resettlement in Australia, a big island according to my mother who heard that it had the best education system in the world.  It was a dream for her to provide us with a good education so for refugees like my family that is all they lived for.  To be resettled, give their children the best education, to rebuild their lives.  To go and have a job you know, earn a good income, get married and have a home.  So that was the Australian dream for many migrants and refugees and I am sure for many of us too.  So we arrived in Mascot airport and I was sharing too, I think somebody this morning, with a small suitcase and not a word of English.  So I was standing in front of my mirror this morning and said I am going to speak in front of 400 people, government you know heads and of Queensland government.  I’m thinking what can I say, how can I share that you know I had succeeded and I thought are you mad, you know this image of me on this small boat escaping and arriving here, not a word of English and here I’m going to speak to you guys this morning.  I am thinking I think of success, you know whatever it is I have not achieved so far because I have got more to go but I am thinking that is a success for me.

So but when I first got here the first thing that I said to myself I remember arriving at the migrant hostel in Wollongong was that I had to learn English and I had to integrate.  In order for me to be a successful Australian those were the two things that my 11-year-old mind, you will work out my age soon, my 11-year-old mind told myself.  And that actually enabled me to really find, make new friends very early on and learned the English language very, very quickly.

I grew up in a dysfunctional household and in a housing commission.  So I wasn’t the most academically gifted daughter.  While other young kids were excelling in maths and science I found myself dabbling in the arts and painting and my mother said to me that’s not going to pay you money so stop it.  So, despite that I actually managed to get into law, I sat a law exam and I got to do law at Sydney Uni but dropped out six months into the course and that was a nightmare for my mum.  She was chasing me around the house threatening to cut my long hair off.  But luckily I found a full-time job as a journalist.  I was the first ethnic reporter at the Fairfax community newspaper in Liverpool in the south-west and later in Fairfield.  So I began to build my career, I found something that I love which was meeting people and writing their stories.  And being the first ethnic reporter for that area meant that I was able to access the stories of so many diverse you know communities in that area because Fairfield city is one of the most diverse councils in the whole of the country I believe.  So I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to get that job seeing that English was my second language.

So I built on that career and made award-winning documentaries and films and eventually landed a job at the ABC.  The journalism path got disrupted in 2008 when at the encouragement of my German migrant husband said you should consider stepping into politics and I thought really, me in journalism and politics.  Well I did, I put my hat in the ring and entered state politics.  It was the most gruelling and confronting experience in my life.

As a daughter of a Vietnamese refugee someone who maintains her Vietnamese traditions and cultural habits in the home and in life, politics and to some extent journalism forced me to shed my cultural habits and traits very quickly.  For example within the Vietnamese culture in most Asian culture, reverence for authority is so ingrained in us that for me challenging authority, questioning authority, speaking and debating someone who I perceive as older, someone like Rob or Barbara, someone who has you know high status within the community was not encouraged and frowned upon, it was actually punishable within our home.  So, and religion, being Catholic also played a huge role in our lives so we were you know we had to pay respect reverence and you know we listened to the words of the priest and the nuns as if they were I mean they were from the Bible but they dictated the way that we lived our lives and how we behave.  So the influence of religion was quite immense.

But with journalism training where I had to go and do the death knock, I don’t know if many of you know what that death knock meant, whereby you know I had to then go and force to do the things that according to my cultural expectation I wasn’t allowed to do, I forced myself to break through that.  And I knew to be a good journalist I had to overcome my own cultural barriers.  I learnt the art of asking questions boldly and at times with the foot in the door approach which I know, I don’t know if your senior people in this room know what that is like and I know that you don’t like it.  But I learnt that no matter who you were in society as a journalist I was able to challenge you, to question you and hunt you down to discover that story.

I discovered I had a voice.  So two decades of journalism and almost 16 years of that at the ABC made me realise I had a voice.  So I turned to look at the community where I grew up and asked why weren’t we encouraged to have a voice and hence my foray into state politics.  So after state I decided to run for local government for Fairfield City Council, as I said one of the most culturally diverse councils in Australia.  And I got elected as an independent in 2012 and re-elected in 2016.  While I have been on this political journey for the past decade I have still yet to see more women and people of culturally diverse backgrounds stepping in.  As Kylie mentioned I am a breast cancer survivor.  In 2015 when I discovered I had breast cancer I think that discovery was the most confronting, more confronting than the boat journey where I nearly died.  More confronting than politics were, how gruelling and brutal it is.  And more confronting than even you know when my baby suffered serious burns.  I realised that death was just around the corner and time was ticking.  So I made the decision then that after spending almost 2 decades as a storyteller, and the decades in politics that I had more work to do to contribute to creating a society that embraced differences and advises a productive and vibrant community nation.

And that had to start at the leadership level as well as the individual level.  So today Rob talks about both the leadership and what the public sector service is trying to do with all of those instruments and implementation but I believe, as I sat there and listened to him that we all as individuals have a role to play.  And I, so I knew it wasn’t the sole responsibility of the leadership team and institutions to make those change, although it would start from there and it’s so great to know that you have that here in Queensland.

For many of our institutions from political to our major companies we still carry certain viewpoints often unconscious and I am emphasising that, very unconscious of women and even worse, a woman from a refugee background or a colour woman or person.  Although on this journey of mine I have come to understand and accept that those view are historical and for some individuals there are indeed deeply embedded.  Many of our institutions including our major political parties were established at a time when Australia’s population was predominantly white Anglo-Saxon.  When women weren’t a big part of the workforce and didn’t have a say.  And couldn’t even vote.  And when we didn’t have access to resources and technology we have today.  Today our society has shifted tremendously.  We are at the cusp of the Internet revolution.  This is challenging, the way we engage with customers, consumers, clients and constituents is changing the way people vote, is certainly changing the way people view, perceive, listen and receive the information generated from major parties or any leaders across our mainstream institutions.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently released figures that showed 7.3 million migrants call Australia home.  That’s the 2018 figures shows almost 30 percent of Australian’s residences were born overseas.  While 30 percent shows that figure the people born in England continue to be the largest group of overseas born residents accounting for almost a million people but that has dropped from 2014 as well.  We as a nation, as society still do not see the importance of how we are geographically placed within the Asia-Pacific region.  We should ask yourself how can we play an active role with our neighbours and how do we tap into the dynamic pool of culturally diverse talent to help advance our nation.  For me diversity and inclusive leadership is important, it’s important to have our leadership teams reflect our society.  For many organisations diversity and inclusion are too often derided as soft human resource issues.  However organisations who neglect these soft skills do so at their peril.  Their failure to understand the different perspective culturally diverse talent can offer to the organisation will have repercussions for the business.

For me one of the most enduring and valued characteristic of a leader is the ability to embrace and value diversity of minds, ideas, cultures, religions, beliefs, values, age and languages and the ability within their spheres of public and private influence.  Embracing these diverse experiences and viewpoints will only encourage us to challenge the way we grow and work.  It can also provide solutions, checks and balances that are critical to a modern democracy.

So when I was preparing this speech last week it fell on April the thirtieth, that date is a very significant date in my life.  It is exactly 44 years ago that my birthplace Saigon fell to communism.  My family, as I said my 40 years of calling Australia home and it’s exactly 4 years since I finished my chemo and radiation treatment for my breast cancer.  Looking back I am really amazed at what life has thrown at me, I am grateful for the lessons learned and knowledge gained and yet knowing that I still have much more to learn.  So thank you so much for this shared, able for me to share this morning and I look forward to discuss on the panel more, and delve into more issues further.  Thank you.

Panel discussion

Facilitator: Megan Barry, Deputy Commissioner, Public Service Commission

Panel members: Jane O’Leary, Research Director, Diversity Council Australia, Mick Gooda, former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission, Renee Kelly, Vision Australia trainee, a vision impaired perspective, Ian Montague, State Manager Queensland, National Disability Services,  Cr Dai Le, Fairfield Councillor, Advisory Board Member of Multicultural New South Wales, and founder of DAWN

Podcast transcript

MC: We really have quite a remarkable line-up of panellists to join us and I’m going to introduce them in a little bit more detail shortly.  But just whilst they are getting settled I will give you a little bit of a rundown on how things are going to work this morning.  Firstly we are going to hear from each of the panel about their perspectives, about workplace inclusion and perhaps hear some important tips about how we can make diversity and inclusion part of our DNA, that challenge that Rob sent out to us earlier.

As Kylie mentioned there will be an opportunity to ask questions so I noticed that there were pads and pen on the table and I urge you to take some time to jot down questions for, that you can direct to the panel shortly.

So now if I can begin to introduce our panel to you.  Firstly to my left firstly here on the right for you is Jane O’Leary and Jane is a research director with the Diversity Council of Australia.  In that role Jane provides a range of research advisory and consulting services to assist Australian employers to drive business improvement through successful diversity management.  Interestingly Jane’s PhD investigated how Australian managers can most effectively manage workplace diversity.  And prior to joining the Diversity Council of Australia Jane worked with the equal opportunity for women in the workplace agency where she had responsibility for developing the policy framework to interpret and administer the amended affirmative action equal opportunity for women Act and oversaw the development of accompanying  educational guidelines for employers.  She was awarded a medal for significant contribution to the Australian public service for her work in this role so we welcome Jane.

Sitting alongside Jane today we have Mick Gooda.  Mick is currently in a role of First Nations Housing Advisor for our very own Department of Housing and Public Works where he is actually helping to improve housing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders.  But previous to this Mick was co-Commissioner for the Royal Commission into child protection and youth detention systems in the Northern Territory and prior to that Mick was for a number of years the Social Justice Commissioner for the Human Rights Commission where he advocated for the rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and promoted respect and understanding of these rights among the broader Australian community.  Welcome to Mick.

Sitting next to Mick we have René Kelly and René is a trainee with vision Australia.  René was born blind but this hasn’t stopped her and she tells me that she loves to give anything a go.  Music and art are her passions and she is a very talented musician and a drummer.  And she was featured in a short documentary on the ABC called Drummer Girl so if you jump on and Google that as I have you will see that documentary about René.  René also has her own Facebook page set up dedicated to her passion for drumming.  René has completed a number of certificates in TAFE in business and business administration including medical administration and she has completed a couple of recent extended work placements with both Queensland Health and currently the University of Queensland and I am hoping that René will share some of her experiences with us today.  Welcome René.

And joining René we have Ian Montague so Ian is the Queensland State Manager for National Disability Services or NDS.  Ian has spent over 12 years engaging with the disability sector and has 10 years’ experience as a non-executive director in a not-for-profit youth and family service.  NDS is the only organisation that represents the full spectrum of disability service providers across Australia with NDS members ranging in size from small support groups to large multi-service organisations.  It provides members with a strong voice enabling the sector to collectively initiate change, influence outcomes and deliver quality services to ensure the best quality of life for people with disability.  Welcome Ian.

And finally we have Dai so we are all old friends with Dai having spent the last few minutes with her so thank you for continuing to join us today Dai.

So as I move in and grab a seat I am actually going to ask Mick to kick us off today and Mick we were just chatting at the table about you have had quite a long history as, in advocacy so you have been an advocate for many years.  What really continues to drive you to continue to create greater inclusion in both the community and workplaces?

MICK: I think it is what drives all advocates that there is something better out there and I don’t really know what it is but I know it is a society that is going to value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that’s where I start, that’s where my heart is.  So I think about that a fair bit about that continuing to strive for the something better out there.  And along the way you run into things, you run into barriers, you run into really great things that happen and I started my public service career in the early eighties and I was privileged enough to work in the Federal public service, the Department of Social Security.  I really think Centrelink is just a shadow of what that department used to be back then.  When all the administrative law came in so we had people able to challenge public servants decisions for the first time.  We had freedom of information come in but one of the most important changes was the EEO.  And when Rob talked about those targets up there, they are the old targets women, Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people, people with disability and people from non-English speaking backgrounds and so I remembered the change that happened.  I was part of the public service in the days we had typing pools, people used to smoke at desks and then all of a sudden this change happened and I was so lucky to live through that and in those days the Department and the public service generally at the federal level had great leadership to push this stuff through.  So being at the forefront of that change in the public service just drove me to think about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we think about the treatment of women in our, and I mean all women, not just Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and those people with disability and people from non-English speaking backgrounds and to drive and strive for a society that is better at all of that is what keeps me going.  And I think as I have progressed through my life I know we get boxed into that little box of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but I think we are far greater than that, we were the people who started cultural competence and cultural awareness.

Now we were saying before we started when I was in the Human Rights Commission we started doing some work around people being culturally competent in the LGBTIQ area for old people.  Imagine being an old gay person in an old people’s home where they’re still making gay jokes.  How would that person feel.  So I like to think as I mature, I still think I have got a fair bit of maturing to do that we start spreading those, I don’t think we can confine ourselves.  And I tell people all the time you look at what we have done to fight for diversity for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander thing and what can other sectors learn from us.  We certainly learnt a lot from women and how they fight for it.

But I just want to finish one thing.  I learnt about human rights and there is this thing called the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people.  It was proposed by the UN in about 2007.  There were four countries that opposed it.  Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada.  You know the Kansas ones said - and they were a bit different because while colonisation sort of finished in Africa and Asia after the second world war for us indigenous people in those countries all remained very small minorities.  So there is this one thing that I think it’s a second preambular paragraph that talks about the right of, that indigenous people are equal to all other people while recognising the right of all people to be different, to be recognised as such and to be respected for that difference.  And when I think about, and I talked to people in the public service about that right because rights can be pretty sort of out there in esoteric times and we always say rights are only rights when they are exercised, they are not just in a piece of paper.  People in the public service have a duty to design systems that cope with difference.  It is not the people who are different who have to negotiate their way through this web of bureaucracy but you have got to design systems to cope with difference, be it Aboriginal, be it an LGBTI person and to do that, the only way to do that is to have diversity.  So if we are going to be a really good public service, and I have got to say I am proud to be a public servant, we serve the public.  Look at it as the literal meaning of public service.  We have got to be diverse if we are going to do that properly.

Sure.  Thanks for that Mick.  René you are at a different point in your career.  You are I guess really starting out.  What really drove you to want to be part of the discussion here this morning?

RENE: I think to share my own personal views.  I think being included within the workforce it gives you a sense of purpose you know and sort of, and the important thing I guess to think is it helps break down the barriers and the assumptions that people have about what we can and can’t do.  You know I have been totally blind since birth and I was saying to someone the other day you know people keep forgetting that I have been blind all my life so I have had to deal, you know I have had no choice but to adapt to living like that you know whereas I think it would probably be a lot harder if you lose your sight later in life because you would have, you would know what you’re missing out on.  So in some ways I guess, it probably sounds funny but I feel quite fortunate.

Thanks for that René, we will come back to you in a minute.  I would love to hear a little bit more about your recent work experiences.

RENE: No problems.

But Jane, turning to you so as Rob said you know we have set our ambitious targets and we are making progress in some areas.  What are some of the things for you that you see are really making, what is really beginning to make a difference and why?

JANE: Well one thing is targets and like Dai I just think it’s fantastic to have them, I know they can be a bit controversial and happy to have a chat about that but we know from, if you look at the 2009 ASX introduced corporate governance guidelines and since then the percentage of directorships in ASX200 filled by women has gone from eight percent to 29 percent.  So if you have targets and you have transparency and public reporting and accountability they work.  Something that is a more recent phenomenon is around what’s been inclusion nudges.  And that is where instead of focusing on rolling out unconscious bias training relentlessly to leaders, which we now know from research can have very mixed results, the focus shifts from trying to change people’s bias minds to setting up policies and practices so that they outsmart the biases that we all hold.  And one example that I love is what’s called two in the pool.  So there is some great research which shows that if you can have two minority candidates in your finalist pool, if you have just one, statistically they have zero percent chance of getting appointed, if you have two it increases to about 50 percent chance.  And the reason for that is that if you are the only minority candidate in a finalist pool you are seen as a bit of an outlier, not a real contender, that is the implicit assumption that the selection panel will make.  Whereas if you have two minority candidates then all of a sudden it starts to disrupt their assumption about that and they are not seen as an outlier so much.

Thank you.  Two in the pool.  So yeah I know you feel really passionately about changing perceptions and bias, particularly about people with disability.  How do we actually go about doing that?

IAN: Well it’s really easy.  That’s a big question.  If you look around the room here today and if you consider every fifth person in this room is likely to have a disability.  So within Queensland it is 18 percent of Queenslanders have some form of disability.  So literally just go around your table, one two three four disability.  It is all-inclusive.  And disability is one of those things that is inclusive in that it doesn’t segregate anyone, so it doesn’t care what your gender is, it doesn’t care what your age is, your religion, your culture, even your socio economic position in society.  It affects everyone equally.  Having said that obviously some forms affect others.  So from that perspective it is really just being open to your own biases and actually looking for opportunities to see ability rather than to see a person’s disability.  It is very human nature that if somebody is sitting in a wheel chair in front of you or is blind like René that you see the difference rather than actually taking the time to go past that and see the ability.  So to be a blind drummer how wonderful is that.  So I think the challenge really is in our systems and processes do we actually get past the disability to see the ability.

RENE: Having an open mind I guess.

IAN: Have an open mind.

René you and I spoke yesterday about some of the recent colleagues that you have worked alongside and you spoke of their open minds.  Do you want to just tell us briefly a bit about your recent work experiences and those people who you worked alongside?

Yeah I have really, really enjoyed both placements I have had.  One with Queensland Health and the most recent one I am at is UQ.  I am learning a whole lot of new skills.  I learnt Queensland Health was one of those skills I learnt was typing up state minutes for statewide meetings and answering the phones there, transferring calls.  And just being a part of such a wonderful supportive team and you know.  And the same with UQ you know I am finding that as I sort of go along, I am in my fourth week in there so it is still sort of early days and they have never had you know a blind person there before so I guess I am trying to sort of prove to them as much as I can what I can do you know.  But they just they are being very, very supportive and approaching it with an open mind and I think that is the key, one of the key points to workplace inclusion is having an open mind and not assuming things you know just sort of taking on board that things may take a bit longer for someone with a disability or someone with challenges but they eventually will be done.  And it can be done just like everyone else can do them.

Thanks René.

IAN: Megan I think it’s important for people to realise that you are not in this alone, you don’t have to learn all of this by yourself without support so there are organisations that will support the individual.

RENE: As well as the work colleagues as well.

IAN: And then there are places that are like out the back here and I would encourage you to pick up their brochures today that that is their job, they are experts in helping organisations and individuals find the techniques and the systems and the processes to actually make this work and in some cases they actually have money to make it happen.  So if you are thinking about it start a conversation so that you can actually find out what is around and what is available.

MICK: René I work with, when I first joined the Human Rights Commission with Graham Eners who was born blind and like I work with Aboriginal people all the time but learning to work with Graham it actually took that open mind and not assuming things and I knew Graham would be really upset if he thought I was patronising and he did just used to say just take the lead off me Mick and it was so important to learn that.

RENE: Yeah well it’s difficult I guess, sorry for interrupting you.

MICK: No, no that’s alright.

RENE: It’s difficult because I guess from outsider perspective people wouldn’t know how far is too far to help you know.  Because I have had someone for example, I live not far from the supermarket and I was going the way I normally go you know and there is a road there and someone was trying to, and someone came and grabbed my arm that my cane was on and pulled me across the pedestrian crossing.  And the pedestrian crossing is not what I wanted to….  And so people think they know where I wanted to go but they didn’t know you know.  I know in some aspects that were trying to help but it can be, and it’s very disorientating you know because then you have got to try and find your way back.  So little things like that and you know.  But and you know the other….

DAI: Couldn’t you have said look I know you are trying to help me but I actually you know, I am very grateful for this but I need to just let, you know sometimes you have just got to speak up.

RENE: Yeah, that’s true and I have learnt that, to do that more because sometimes it’s hard to say no when people give you help you know.  But you know it is just that sort of…

So Dai just back to you for a moment when you’re talking about really what you have seen make a difference and you have seen more in other jurisdictions outside of Queensland.  What are a couple of key things that you think are actually making a difference?

DAI: Look I have worked mainly in the corporate sector and I think, I think Jane probably can also attest to this is that there is a lot of initiatives within the corporate sector to ensure that, that the issue of inclusion and diversity is actually being talked about.  What we do at Dawn is we run our Dawn empty chair conversations.  And that empty chair conversation is you know we don’t have a panel who is sitting here speaking with you but we actually have an empty chair and that anyone can actually come up and have a conversation in smaller numbers, not like this to make it safe.  And as we talk about having a safe environment in order for people to be able to bring the best of themselves to work.  And I think we found that running these conversations internally at these organisations have you know while we talk about it today some people think about it in their heads and they don’t want to share some of their challenges or barriers that they have experienced because they think oh you know my boss or my leader will not understand.  And so you still need to facilitate and enable and encourage those that are, what I call the emerging leaders.  But also the leaders you know as I mentioned before from a cultural diverse perspective if Rob said yes you can talk about this, but from a culturally diverse perspective you think oh no, no he, we just listened to him and we were just you know there is that fear still there, there is that cultural barriers that prevent people from actually speaking out and sharing.  And therefore you need somebody who actually has that lived experience or actually people that can reflect them.  You know I said you can’t be what you can’t see.  So if you’re, you know in our case at Dawn, our team are quite diverse so we talk about diversity and inclusion we actually look you know, you know walk the talk.  And so we walk in there and that means that people of cultural diverse backgrounds feel, feel more safer to actually share the issues with us.  So I think feeling safe and facilitating that and making it easy to happen within those organisations has been quite interesting actually, we have had a great response to that, what we do yeah.

Okay thanks.  Jane if I can swing it back to you for a moment.  So this forum I guess had it’s sort of genesis in focusing on how do we best support women across Queensland government and we have you know, now it has become and we understand this is a far broader issue of diversity and inclusion.  And we have made some pretty good progress as Rob stated against our ambitious target for 2022, there is still some way to go though.  I am just wondering from your perspective what do you think is next for gender equality?

JANE: Where do I start.  Well I suppose one thing that we are really focused on at Diversity Council Australia is intersectionality so not just assuming that if we talking about targets for women in leadership that women are sort of a homogenous group because the reality is that we have had gender equality around legislatively for decades and we know from the statistics that women who benefited are women like me who are primarily from a wider Anglo-Saxon background straight, middle-class.  And that the, if you look at women with a disability, women who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.  Women from culturally diverse backgrounds, they experience double jeopardy.  Someone I was talking to yesterday said she thinks about it like double identity, double disadvantaged.  And so I think we need to really start looking beyond women as a homogenous group.

Thanks.  Just before we throw to the audience, that is your queue to get your questions ready.  I have got a question for you Jane when we talk about disadvantage and what I think we are beginning to feel and it’s quite palpable is almost this ground swell from our male colleagues in the workforce who are beginning to feel quite disenfranchised and that they see the, I guess the gender equality movement as now disadvantaging them.  Have you got anything that you would like, are able to share with us on that?

JANE: Well I think that is one of the key challenges for gender equality moving forward.  The University of Canberra put out some research, I think it was late last year or early this year and they did a nationally representative survey of Australians and they found that about 45 percent of the men they surveyed, the Australian men they surveyed felt that gender equality was leaving men behind.  That political correctness in the workplace was giving women an unfair advantage.  And I think we need to listen to that and work with that and one of the things that DCA does is in all, every diversity sort of stream that we look at including gender equality, our founding principle is to work in partnership so if you’re looking at gender equality, any work that you as a leader do we recommend you partner with someone from another gender to yourself to lead the conversation.  And the same would hold true around reconciliation and around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander is to partner.  You still give in gender equality women the leading voice and around reconciliation, you still give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the leading voice but you create change in partnership.

MICK: Can I put another view?


JANE: Yeah.

MICK: When I hear that, I heard about South African middle aged men are the most disadvantaged in South Africa.  My answer to that was well you had a fair go.  And I think sometimes you need a sledgehammer to break things down and you need to confront that.  And I really get a bit sick of it, that men are feeling so wounded by people getting the equal treatment.  And it’s always like we say about when people of privilege see processes to address discrimination, they think of it as a discrimination against themselves you know.  So I hear it all the time about women.  You talk about intersectionality.  You know everyone thinks Aboriginal people are really angry, we’re not, I’m one of the most conservative black fellers there is.  But I tell you the worst thing that can ever happen is if you get tagged as an angry Aboriginal woman.  That’s just a queue to discount everything you say because you’re just angry.  And I think we have got to confront it and blow it about working in partnership.  I’m serious, I really think we’ve got to actually confront it really hard and say, like those South African middle age South African white men saying we are the most disadvantaged.  Well you had a fair go, time to step aside and I really think we have got to do that, we can’t be too cute about it because a lot of men don’t want to let go.

JANE: I agree and I suppose one, I talk about the partnership thing but the other side is privilege which is the point you raised and one of the things I’m really passionate about is mentioning the privilege word because we all talk about disadvantage.  Everyone goes oh they’re disadvantaged but no one adds into that conversation that if that group is disadvantaged then someone else has to be advantaged and that’s where the privilege is.  And there is, for any of you who want to explore this in relation to yourself there is a fantastic buzz feed quiz online and it asks you 100 questions and gives you a score out of 100 for your level of privilege.  And the reason I love this is that it shows that privilege is about a small accumulation of your birth lottery or your life lottery.  So it’s not just about what gender you are, it is about your age, it is about your socio-economic status, it’s about your disability, it’s about your mental health.  It is about all, and together they accumulate to give you a huge amount of privilege or a small amount of privilege.

And there is that really nifty video that goes with that and there is an Australian and US version as well.  So I promised everybody the opportunity to ask questions so I am going to move to the floor now.  So if you do have a question please raise your hand, we had some roving mics.  It would be lovely if you could just introduce us with your first name because we are all about, it’s all about people as Rob said so we would like to know who we are speaking with.  We start, can we start over here?

AUDIENCE: My name is Mandy Duke and I am from Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.  I don’t so much have a question but I just want to acknowledge something that most of you have touched on is, is recognition of disability.  You spoke about one in five people have a disability.  I myself am hearing-impaired but I have never really filled in the survey to say yes I am hearing impaired because I don’t see that as, it is how it is questioned.  Do you have a disability?  Well I don’t see that I have a disability because I don’t see it as a negative but I don’t, I’ve never really looked at the reason why those questions are being asked.  So I think it’s very important for everyone to acknowledge that when we are filling out the surveys, these questionnaires for employment or anything that we’re doing that we are thinking about the actual questions that are being asked.  And from now on I will be saying yes I am hearing-impaired because I have actually lost hearing in one ear and I’m not ashamed to say it to people, I tell people all the time.  But yeah I really just want to thank you all for touching on that and hopefully I can be included in those targets to help other people.  Thank you.

Thanks for that.  We have certainly heard that from other people with disability and are doing some work to make sure that how we actually frame the questions and how we define those questions so thanks for that.  I think we have got another question over here.

AUDIENCE: Just looking at say from this, from a higher level of the, how Queensland Government works and I’m trying to learn to understand the picture wall.  What I was wondering is as well as the bias do we actually have a physical barrier or construct of organisation that limits the people’s approach to whether they choose someone who has, recognises themselves as having a disability as opposed to someone who doesn’t?

MICK: Can I answer that?

Yeah sure.

IAN: Absolutely and if you want to get some feel for that the ABC program Employable Me which you can see both season one and season two is a classic example of that.  If you have standard interview processes you are very unlikely to get an autistic person in your ranks.  There are organisations that are totally changing their recruitment practice because they want those type of people because and it’s a sweeping generalisation, because of the abilities they have particularly in certain fields.  So this is where and I think Rob’s comment, and I wrote it down Rob, pause, reflect and adapt is really critical because what in the processes that we do in normal day-to-day, if we actually pause a little bit, have a think about how we do this, you will probably adapt your processes.  So I totally agree.  If we keep doing what we have been doing we will keep getting what we had.  So if we are going to look for difference, let’s adapt.

Thanks Ian.  So I think we have got time for one more question.

AUDIENCE: Almost like the elephant in the room.  If 20 percent of the population has a disability declared or otherwise how does that feel with the 10 percent target?

IAN: Well I must admit when I saw that I was a little bit disappointed.  Keeping in mind that of those other groups that are being targeted also have, are likely to have a disability as well so you might primarily see yourself as from a culturally diverse background but you may also have a disability, the same with indigenous.  But I agree with you, those targets to me seem ridiculously low and I would be interested to see or hear whatever Rob finds out as to why those numbers have changed.

DIA: But can I actually jump in there.  I think it is better to have targets than no targets so I think as an outsider from New South Wales I think what I saw, the presentation today with setting those targets I think you know yes, I said, I wondered I said how did you come up with those numbers however at least there is something for executives to work towards and obviously it’s becoming part of the KPIs so which is you know fantastic where you have to meet some target.  And I think if you start working on those targets and seeing the results then you can actually by that stage you will have the numbers, you will say actually there are more et cetera of the different groups than you can shift the targets but at least you have something to begin with.

JANE: I think also my experience with working corporate (ui) targets is often there is a real passion to set them really high, and amazing stretch target but when that can’t be achieved because you are relying on a turnover of staff as much is anything to fill those, so you have got to set a target that is actually achievable and realistic otherwise you can end up undermining morale and the work that you are doing.

IAN: And while the target is good, I think it is a target that’s one thing but there are other ways that Queensland Government as a whole can help in what’s happening with René, we are providing work experience and opportunities to build knowledge and skills is an example of working.  Queensland Government procures a lot of services, it would be great if you can procure from people that are supporting people with disabilities in some form or another.  There are lots of opportunities to do this in other ways than just straight full-time employment.

Thank you.  Time has beaten us today.  I think we could have spent about another hour and a half quite happily taking on all sorts of challenges and Sharon thanks for I guess putting that challenge out to the sector, it’s a very valid point that you raise.  So in terms of the panel I would like to thank you very much for generously giving up your time and sharing your valuable insights with us.  You know we have heard a number of themes throughout both the presentations and discussions from Rob and Dai and now from the panel and we have heard much about cultural intelligence and how do we actually build that capability within ourselves and within our workplaces.  We have heard about inclusion nudges from Jane and the two in the pool, you can see that that one has stuck with me.  And we have had a big discussion about maintaining an open mind and sometimes that takes bravery and courage on an individual’s part to do that and I encourage you all to continue.  And we have talked a lot about intersectionality as well throughout the panel discussion.  So we know how much our behaviours and our words impact and make others feel and that we all have a role to play in actually breaking down the barriers.  And finally what has been particularly evident is, and through the intersectionality discussion is how much we have to learn from the challenges that there are in each of the diversity areas.  So thank you very much.

Event close

Barbara Phillips, Deputy Director-General, Corporate Services Division, Queensland Health

Podcast transcript

I would also like to thank all of the panel members today for taking the time to share your experiences and your insights.  I think the discussion was rich, I think it was thought-provoking and I am especially grateful for the courage it took for panel members to come up and share some of the views that they did and some of the experience they did today.  I think you have touched many hearts and minds today and that’s an awesome thing and it’s not easily done so thank you, we really do appreciate it.

If you take one thing away from this event I think it’s fairly simple.  Everyone has a role to play.  What are you going to do today that will make a difference.  We all need to work together to create an inclusive and diverse place for everyone, it takes time, patience and perseverance but it is a duty and we do need to make the opportunities happen.  Be tolerant of co-workers who do not yet appreciate the value of diversity or who may not always understand how it is to behave respectively.  A willingness to educate and be the model of how and why we should way, at the way we do is something that we can all share.

If you don’t mind indulging me briefly before wrapping up today I would like to take this opportunity to thank the outstanding and highly professional team behind this event.  They work tirelessly, and they do work tirelessly thank you to ensure that your experience is seamless and valuable to your career.  There are always too many to mention by name but today I would like to single out Michelle Omar, where are you Michelle, I know you are here somewhere.  It’s a bit hard for me to see. Oh there you are, just stand up and wave Michelle thank you.  Who has been a key member of the team behind these events for the past year.  Some of you will also have been lucky enough to attend the annual summit that we do in March this year and again Michelle was instrumental in the success of that event.  Michelle thank you for your dedication, passion and hard work over the past year, it has been a pleasure to work with you and we will miss your energy and fun to bring all of the things that you do to this event, thank you.  I know you are going back to your substantive role but we will miss you.

I would like to say that these events have these origins and maintain the momentum of enthusiasm, goodwill and ideas between the Annual Women’s Leadership Summits each year.  We run the breakfast series for you and it’s important that we tackle the issues that are important to you.  So we will email everyone a feedback form shortly after the event.  Please make sure you take the opportunity to tell us what you think, we really appreciate it.  Every time we do one of these I think it gets better.  It gets better because you help us tell what works well for you and what doesn’t, even if it’s well you talk too long Barb, I’m okay with that.

We have two more breakfast events occurring this year.  Thursday the eighth of August and Tuesday the eighth of October so please keep an eye out for them, please put them in your diary, we would love to see you.  Finally I would just like to thank you all for coming again today.  I hope you continue the conversation back in your departments on the very important issues about inclusion and diversity.  Thank you and travel well.

Attendee interviews about the event

Podcast transcript

*It was great just everyone, good talker, really good talk.  Proud of the girl drummer, I admire her being a drummer myself, I don’t know how she does it.

What did you like about today’s breakfast?

*The openness of the panellists I think.

*I thought that was fantastic actually.  I will tell you what I took away.  I really liked that concept around inclusion nudges rather than looking at unconscious bias so let’s have a look at inclusion nudges where we can take actual steps to address diversity in the workplace so yeah.

*A couple of the comments around how we think differently about diversity in the workplace so I have just asked the HR people in our department to be a bit more proactive about what we might be able to do there and take some advice from other areas as well.

*That inclusivity should be very positive and a positive thing to take back, not a negative.

*So I think the main thing for me is that we need to change our attitudes towards inclusion and it starts with you rather than the statistics and stuff yeah.

And for you, what are you taking away?

*For me it was two in the pool.  So having representation in every recruitment process is really important.

*So I thought it was a really interesting conversation, really liked what Mick Goodar had to say.

*Oh look so many things, so I have wrote a few notes and I will Yammer those and yeah I’m really looking forward to the next one as well.

For you, what are you taking away?

*It’s good to be included and diversified and the feeling of actually being respectful and, and yeah I would say inspired but this is (ui) so, yeah which is really good thank you.

*Really sharing the message about openness I think is the biggest thing yeah.

And for you?

*I think the panel was really amazing.  I think that getting the personal insights is probably the biggest benefit from today.

Interview with Dai Le

Podcast transcript

Counsellor Dai Le welcome to the women’s network QG breakfast series in Brisbane.

Thanks Anthony and I am thrilled to be here.

You have a remarkable story to tell don’t you, about your life and how you got to where you are today.

Well I hope so, I hope it is a remarkable story but I think it’s not just, I think it’s an ordinary story from my perspective of the story of many refugees who have called Australia home over the past four decades if I’m talking about the Vietnamese refugees in particular but yeah.

How did it all begin for you arriving in Australia?

Look it’s you know I landed here after spending a few years in refugee camps in the seventies and I got here and it was a very scary obviously experience.  As a child growing up in Vietnam I remember when we first got to Australia and of course I had never flown on a plane.  So what happens is that you know we escape on a boat, we survived and we got to Hong Kong camps.  So up until that point you know the West, what we have in the West you know you don’t, you have never experienced.  But I remember the plane, I had never flown in a plane before and….

What was that like?

That was, I remember sitting on that plane looking like wondering what this vehicle, what this peace thing was and it was quite surreal and you were up in the air as well.  And so we got here.  I remember we walked through the, obviously now I know it was Kingsford Smith airport back then we got to an airport and as I stepped out I walked out and I remember, this is like, I looked around thinking oh my god they all looked the same right, everybody looked the same.  They were all white skin and they looked at that stage to me all had golden hair right.  I don’t know if that was the actual picture or not but that was how I saw it.  And so when we got out there was a little bus, a small bus waiting for us.  There was about I think about 15 refugee families and we got onto the bus and I remember this elderly, looked like an elderly man at the bus driving and he nodded, he must have said welcome or something but he nodded and we nodded and smiled.  I got on the bus and I remember there was aircon coming out right.  And I thought, I was fascinated because I haven’t felt, well other than in the plane I thought is this the same as that thing that we flew in, it has got this air coming out.  So there is all of this very foreign, foreign experiences that I was wondering what was going on you know in my life.  One thing I knew was that I was out of the camp.  One thing I knew was that I was not running anymore and the other thing was I knew that there was safety, I have landed somewhere where it was safe.

In those early days what do you recall most about those early days after you arrived here in Australia?

When we got to the hostel and we were settled in Wollongong.  When I got to the hostel there were lots of other migrants and refugees that were living in that hostel in Wollongong.  And it was all red bricks, the hostel was red bricks and there was this white dome there were, and of course I found out later it was an army mess, it used to be, it must be for the army so there was this dome hall there.  But I remember telling myself the one thing that I made a decision was that I have to learn English, I really have to learn English for me to really, this is now my home.  I suddenly made the decision it was my home but I know for many refugees it was such a temporary thing because I think my mother still believed that she was going to go back to Vietnam.  But for me in my mind we were, this is it, this is my home now, I have got to learn English.

And when you made that decision in your mind how did it change the way that you saw our country and moving forward to build a career for yourself?

I think it made it easy for me to make friends at school.  We were the first Vietnamese refugee families in the school area so even though it was very scary because English wasn’t my first language you know I still remember the first day at school, I remember this young boy said hello right.  I stood there and I cried.  And the teacher looked, his name was Michael Booth I think it was, he teased me years on.  But it was so foreign that I had this guy who had blue eyes, he looked strange to me and he said something and I just cried.  Maybe because I was just in such a shock where I was.  But you know I pulled myself into work, I became, I think at year six won my spelling competition and that for me highlighted that I actually really wanted to learn the language.  I mean being a Vietnamese refugee becoming you know the best speller in school was just, I thought was amazing yeah.

And looking back to where you are today what, what do you believe were the junction points in your life that have helped you progress to have a successful career today?

I don’t know if I have had a successful career.  Success is interesting isn’t it.  I stood up, I was getting ready this morning and I looked at myself in the mirror.  I said you know to be part of a speaker series such as today but to also in what I have been doing in the last five or six year years talking about diversity and inclusive leadership, I thought I have gone a really long way to actually be able to be in a position to talk about it.  And I think look at myself where I have been on a boat running from a war and here I am.  Like it just to me I’m thinking maybe I should be, I should give myself something that it was a success for me or I am successful even at that level.

What are the messages that you want audiences that you speak to hear and when you travel, what messages do want them to take home or take back to their workplace?

The messages I often tell people is nobody will do it for you except yourself and that no matter what, no matter how many hurdles is placed in front of you, no matter how difficult those challenges will be or are or could be to pursue that, whatever it is that you want to pursue and you know there is a Japanese saying that I live by.  That you fall down seven times but you stand up eight times.  And I know I have fallen many times throughout my whole life, I have lost you know many opportunities but from those losses I have learnt as well.  So I think it’s about, the difference is really you at the end of the day no matter what.  We can’t blame government, we can’t blame somebody else but ourselves.

Do you think that we can empower each other more in the workplace?

Look I think we can, we can reach out to understand one another, to embrace differences, that is very important.  And it is confronting, confronting with somebody who doesn’t speak the same language as you, who doesn’t have the same food as you.  Who might have a different odour to you, who wears different clothing or has different religious beliefs.  I get confronted by some of those issues.  But I challenge my own mind to say okay at the end of the day if you make that effort to reach out and to see that that difference is actually quite unique and can contribute to your understanding of humanity then do it.  But it takes a lot of work on your own mind to do that so that’s why I say the difference is really you.  You in terms of how you, you know your destiny and your life but also you in terms of how you engage with people and what you know effort or what you can do to embrace that.

And when we open our minds in the workplace to diversity what does diversity bring to the workplace do you think?

Oh look diversity brings, it brings a lot of challenges to the workplace.  That is no doubt right, that is a certainty.  But in those challenges I believe there we create amazing solutions, amazing ideas and you know of course there will be conflict.  I am not saying that diversity is going to be the solution to everything but where you want to create and shape your organisation or come up with a solution if you have the same people who go from the same school as you, have the same experience, life experience as you how would that contribute to your growth and understanding of the world and of differences.  So I think having a different mindset to have a different perspective can actually make you, somebody think oh really, I hadn’t thought of that.  So it just brings so much I believe colour and challenges, I have to say challenges as well but hey you know what, we are human beings.  Our brain is amazing.  If we exercise it, give it the opportunity to do back flips in the head, you will be amazed at what you can come up with.

Well thank you for joining us here at the QG breakfast series and congratulations on all the work that you are doing and we look forward to seeing you again in Brisbane some time.

Thank you so much Anthony.

Last updated: 22 August 2019