Research conducted by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has revealed concerning findings regarding the experiences of staff from non-European cultural backgrounds within the Australian Public Service (APS)

The CPSU's research, which surveyed nearly 200 CALD Network members from 38 agencies, found that staff from non-European cultural backgrounds are more likely to perceive barriers to career progression compared to other culturally and linguistically diverse colleagues from European cultural backgrounds.

Key findings from the CPSU's research include:

  • 40.2% of staff from non-European cultural backgrounds reported experiencing barriers in their APS career and development, compared to 33.3% of those with European cultural backgrounds.
  • Only 44.3% of staff from non-European cultural backgrounds strongly agreed or agreed that they had the same opportunities as colleagues with the same experience and ability, in contrast to over 54.2% of those with European cultural backgrounds.

These findings align with the recent study conducted by the Australian National University (ANU), which investigated APS career progression over 20 years, drawing on data from the Australian Public Service Commission. The ANU study stated that “these lower promotion prospects for Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) staff are only partially explained by language proficiency or cultural assimilation. The unexplained remainder could reflect a penalty for being non-white.”

The CPSU survey results indicate that non-white APS staff agree that such a penalty exists. It can be found here.

Quotes attributable to Melissa Donnelly, CPSU National Secretary:

“Our survey findings indicate that bias and discrimination are evident across APS workplaces.

“It is critical for the APS CALD Employment Strategy to improve multicultural capability service-wide, to remove bias and racism from APS workplaces, and address all relevant barriers to career development and advancement for CALD employees.

“Increasing APS diversity and inclusion would lead to more effective decision-making, innovation and adaptability. It would also better position the APS to understand the demographics and policy needs of different communities, ensuring better access to public services across the country.

“The CPSU is committed to working with agencies and workers to progress these issues.

"Improving APS diversity and inclusion is making a commitment to a brighter, fairer future for all employees and for the Australian public they serve.

Media contact: Tori McGregor 0429 000 620