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Diversity and inclusion in the spotlight at Public Sector Governance Forum

We cannot talk about one Australia. We have multiple Australias, with different workplace configurations and multiple jurisdictions. And this is something that is often forgotten in the discussions on diversity and inclusion says Scott Way, the Director for Industrial & Organisational Psychology for BDO.

“Effectively we are the United States of Australia,” Mr Way said.

“For example, the people that I end up training in my workshops look different, sound different and are different in Western Australia to South Australia to Tasmania to Victoria. So, there is going to be state by state differences.”

A lot of those differences cannot be generalised by a single number or a statistic when we discuss Australia’s diversity and inclusion record, says Mr Way.

“I think Australians are enormously inclusive and enormously respectful. Sure, we could always improve as could any country. But when you put our efforts in a global context, we are doing pretty well.”

Thinking back to the 1980s when he worked in the disability sector, helping get young disabled people into employment, Mr Way says it was enormously difficult because the degree to which disability was understood was limited.

“Fast forward 25 years and what we are seeing now is fantastic. Where several years ago workers with mental and physical disabilities would be working in sheltered or separated environments, today we see them in mainstream workplaces with no one thinking twice. We have come a long way.”

The vast majority of Australians don’t really care where you come from, what you look like, what you sound like as long as you have the right skills and are happy to work in a teamly manner, Mr Way said.

What we do not talk anywhere near enough about however is psychological diversity, Mr Way says.

“We run into it every day. Australians need to be given a safe forum where it is OK for people to be comfortable to talk about individual differences and where others are comfortable asking questions about these differences.”’

There must be that psychological safety for people to talk openly and freely about these things, Mr Way says.

If people are under the pressure or if they are poorly informed, then the response may be to affix a label, and categorise the difference and not think beyond that, says Mr Way.

Scott Way will be chairing the diversity and inclusion panel discussion at the upcoming Public Sector Governance Forum on Thursday, 5 November 2020. The face-to face component of this event has now sold out but you can still join us online.

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