Not a quota: Why Aboriginal recruitment matters in Western Sydney

WSLHD Aboriginal workforce coordinator Caspa Tyson with a scarred tree in Parramatta Park.

Diversity at the decision-making table is essential to good healthcare planning and delivery, according to Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Aboriginal workforce coordinator Caspa Tyson.

March 19 is National Close the Gap Day, a day committed to action on closing the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.

WSLHD’s initiatives to close the gap include recruitment strategies to help achieve at least three percent representation across the district by 2025.

Caspa’s role is to support the district’s Aboriginal workforce, assist recruitment strategies, and provide guidance and a different perspective to managers.

“Inclusion means being invited to the table when decisions for our communities and outcomes for Aboriginal people are being discussed. We know how to best serve our community and what will work for us,” Caspa said.

“It’s not just the business of meeting a quota or target, it’s being valued for the unique perspective and lived experience we can bring to the organisation.”

As a Yiman woman from Queensland, Caspa has seen different effects of colonisation compared to Darug people in Western Sydney.

WSLHD chief executive Graeme Loy said it is the district’s “obligation and privilege” to help improve the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“With a 10 year lower life expectancy than other Australians, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to close the gap and achieve health equality,” Graeme said.

“Together with partner organisations, we are currently reviewing our maternity model of care to give Aboriginal mothers and families easy access to holistic prenatal, birthing and postnatal care, both in our hospitals and in the community.”

As a Yiman woman from Queensland, part of Caspa’s job is meeting with local Darug Elders and communities to understand the different needs in Western Sydney.

“Colonisation impacted Aboriginal nations across the country in different ways, and we continue to see those impacts in different ways today,” Caspa said.

“Being Aboriginal in the workforce can be hard and complex, but when we meet up it reminds us why we do what we do. We draw strength from each other. It’s empowering.”

Caspa enjoys the cultural diversity of Western Sydney, which is not only home to Australia’s largest Aboriginal population, but also a place where about half of all residents were born overseas.

She encourages people to attend a wide range of events – including NAIDOC Week, Close the Gap Day, Harmony Day, Diwali and others – to broaden their perspective.

“Our community is an amazing, interwoven tapestry of people and we’ve got so much to learn from each other,” Caspa said.

“For my culture, I’m so proud to say we’re the oldest continuous living culture in the world and we’ve got a connection to this land, the animals and each other that goes back over 65,000 years.

“People travel to see the pyramids but we’ve got sacred sites here that are way older than that. We should embrace that culture and celebrate our survival.”