Burswood - Aboriginal Program Coordinator
My name is Christine Ross I am an Arrernte/Kaytetye desert woman who was born in Alice Springs and grew up in Darwin. My partner is Wayne Bynder who is a local Noongar man from Perth, I moved to Perth in 2002 but always go back to the NT on holidays each year.
I have twins Braeden and Ashleigh and 2 grandchildren Cody and Kira, my 2 daughter in laws are Jasmine and Mary we all live in Perth. I come from a large extended Aboriginal family who live mostly in Alice Springs and Darwin or around Australia.
I graduated as a teacher from the University of South Australia in 1984 and spent several years teaching in the NT. I was the Manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Support Unit within the NT Department of Education for 4 years.
After 14 years with the NT Department of Education I then worked as the General Manager of the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) in Alice Springs overseeing the successful Yeperenye Festival in 2001.
In 2002 I moved to Perth and began working as a Lecturer at the Kulbardi Centre and in the School of Education at Murdoch University.
In 2004 I moved back to Darwin for a year and was employed by the NT Department of Justice as the Coordinator of the National Indigenous Consumer Working Party. In 2005 the National Indigenous Consumer Strategy was launched.
I began working for the WA Department of Education and Training in 2005 till May 2009. I worked as the Senior Consultant Aboriginal Employment Programs and was the co-author of the Departments Culture Strong, Career Proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy.
I was very keen to work in the area of Aboriginal employment so when my current position was advertised in March 2009, I applied and won the position as the Aboriginal Program Coordinator at Burswood Entertainment Complex on 4th May 2009.
I had often visited Burswood socially before working here and was fascinated about what it would be like working for such as large well known business and a prominent Tourist destination.
After many years of working as a Public Servant I really wanted to enjoy working in the private sector.
As the Aboriginal Program Coordinator my job is varied and ranges from recruiting Aboriginal people across all areas of Burswood to mentoring and working with their Supervisors.
I liaise with a number of Job service providers when they are referring Aboriginal candidates to Burswood.
I really enjoy the opportunity of seeing an Aboriginal person starting here.
It offers the opportunity of a real job, as opposed to training and with no job at the end. It’s a foot in the door to a Business such as Burswood where there is so much scope and opportunity for a career path.
It’s really important to ensure our Aboriginal people are employed in a number of areas such as Security,HR, Chefs, Croupiers, PR and hotel staff.
As of January 2009 every new Aboriginal employee automatically goes onto the Aboriginal Employment Program. They are well supported by the Aboriginal Program Coordinator and the Aboriginal Mentor who meet with them individually and as a group.
Aboriginal employee workshops are held every 6 months, so the group can come together and participate in professional development training. It gives them an opportunity to meet each other and in turn they support and mentor one another.
It’s fabulous to work for an organisation such as Burswood which has supported this Program as the rewards come back ten fold. At the end of the day we have signed up for a National Program to help break down the cycle of poverty amongst Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal employees have helped break down barriers and ensure their colleagues have a greater understanding of Aboriginal Culture
Every month I present an Aboriginal Cross Cultural Awareness Program where any Burswood employees are welcome to attend. All Managers and Supervisors who work with Aboriginal staff are strongly encouraged to attend and many have done so.
It’s great to see that we now acknowledge Aboriginal Culture at key business events.
However, the challenges we face are two fold:
Transitioning new employees into a business such as Burswood is not always easy. New recruits need to find the balance between shiftwork and outside interests including their family obligations and their lifestyle. The first six months test peoples commitment to a job particularly when it involves odd hours and settling into a new team.
To support new employee’s into the Aboriginal employment program, our Aboriginal Program Coordinator and Mentor meets with them regularly on an individual, daily to weekly depending on the person. Any problems or concerns from both sides are discussed and solutions found.
The bi-annual Aboriginal Employee Workshops are invaluable for providing support to all our Aboriginal employees as they provide vital mentoring and support for one another which assists with their retention.
The second challenge we faced was building internal commitment to the program. Many of our Managers had seen similar programs come and go over the years and were a little hesitant to get on board. However, through providing cultural awareness training for all our mangers and our recruitment team, we have seen a more inclusive approach develop towards Aboriginal candidates.
To counteract this we continually demonstrate and promote many great success stories that ensure various Departments are only to happy to consider employing Aboriginal people in them.
Have the confidence to apply for several jobs, always do your research on that company so you show you’re keen and interested. If possible get a drivers licence and have your own transport, protect your drivers licence by not losing it and most of all try and ensure your police clearances are clean as that may mean the difference between getting the job you really want or missing out.
If successful ensure you demonstrate a good work ethic which involves being punctual, attending work regularly and performing to your best ability.
No matter where you work always be proud to acknowledge your Aboriginal culture and heritage and be a good role model for others.
It is absolutely imperative to the success of the Aboriginal Program at Burswood that the key personnel involved in delivering the Program are Aboriginal. This ensures our Aboriginal staff are comfortable in dealing with them and they have a greater understanding of some of the challenges faced by Aboriginal employees and can advocate on their behalf.
We have a number of partnerships with Job service providers in referring prospective employees as well as a number of other government and non-government agencies.
Our Aboriginal employment Program is seen as a Best Practice model as demonstrated in the recently released government strategy titled Training Together – Working Together.
We attend community events such as Sorry day, NAIDOC week and career expo’s as it’s important to be connected to the community.