The following job is currently advertised on VicRoads website:
Applications Close: 09/05/2008
Work Type: Full Time
Salary: VRO1 – $30,102 – $36,624
Division: Technical and Information Services
Primary Job Purpose:
In line with the operational requirements of the area, a Road Worker will be required to assist in responding to emergencies both during and after hours.
Key Selection Criteria:
This identified Indigenous position is an initiative of the VicRoads Indigenous Employment Program.
Only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are eligible to apply.
Complete an online application by clicking on the ‘Apply for job’ button below. It is highly recommended that applicants address the key selection criteria as part of their application to be considered.
VicRoads is required to evidence your right to work in Australia and may ask for your consent to check records maintained by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship as part of the selection process. Information provided to VicRoads will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Lattenomics believes that this job advert is racist. We know that advocates of affirmative action would in turn accuse us of being racist because that’s what they normally do instead of debating issues. We also understand the argument can be made about Aboriginal disadvantage and the need to provide Aboriginals with “special” employment opportunities. At Lattenomics we don’t believe that such arguments hold water. Here are our reasons why:
1. In Australia it is illegal to discriminate against employees based on race, religion, gender, sexual preference and so on. There is no reason why VicRoads cannot hire Aboriginals as part of the normal employment process.
2. VicRoads could argue that they would like to employ Aboriginal person in order to have somebody with, in their own words: a demonstrated knowledge of Victorian Indigenous culture and society together with demonstrated experience in working and communicating with Victorian Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Still, it could be argued that there are plenty of non-Indigenous people who are familiar with Aboriginal culture and have links with the community. VicRoads insistence on hiring somebody who is Aboriginal shows that they are more interested in the person’s race than their knowledge.
3. Definitions of who constitutes Aboriginal is very vague. In 1983 the High Court of Australia defined ‘An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives’. This decision legally established that anyone who has a drop of Aboriginal blood can classify himself as an Aboriginal if he is accepted as such by his community. However, there is no formal procedure for any community to record acceptance, so the only method of determining indigenous population is from self-identification on census forms. There is no provision on the forms to differentiate full from part indigenous. In reality anyone calling themselves an Aboriginal can actually claim to be one. This is perhaps the reason why since 1996 the Aboriginal population has grown at twice the rate of overall population. Call me a cynic, but incentives like special jobs for Aboriginals only, and special government welfare could be one of the reasons for this jump in Aboriginality.
4. Affirmative action is bad for Aboriginals. As we have established in point one, it is already illegal to discriminate against Aboriginals on the basis of race and therefore there are no legal hurdles for Aboriginals to get jobs for which they are suitably qualified. It is clear that creating special jobs, such as the one above, send a number of very bad messages:
- It shows that VicRoads accepts the prevalent negative stereotype that Aborigines are unable to get jobs based on merit and that standards must be lowered in order for Indigenous Australians to get ahead.
- It reinforces the perception held by many Aboriginals themselves that they are unable to compete with others and get jobs based on merit. Clearly a bad thing for the self esteem and self-worth of Indigenous Australians and as such destined to perpetrate Aboriginal victimhood.
- In the wider community it creates a perception that Aborigines get preferential treatment creating yet more resentment and division.
- What message does it send to the fellow VicRoads employees when somebody lacking proper qualifications to do the job is employed purely because they are Aboriginal? If they had the qualifications, they would get the job anyway. Remember, it is already illegal to discriminate against Aboriginal employees.
- Despite being geared towards equality, such “special” jobs send a clear message that it is in fact OK to treat people differently because of their race. Just imagine a job advert for a “White Road Worker” or even a “Greek Road Worker”. There would be an outrage. Positive discrimination is still discrimination.
5. VicRoads may argue that they are trying to help Aboriginals because of the disadvantages they face. This includes, poverty, poor education and substance abuse. But again, these problems are not unique to Indigenous Australians, yet VicRoads didn’t feel compelled to advertise for a “Poor Road Worker”, “Uneducated Road Worker” or “Drunk Road Worker”. It is clear that they are interested in race rather than disadvantage.
So why would a company like VicRoads want to employ somebody just because they belong to a certain race? As we have illustrated above there is little logical reason to do so. There are also plenty of negatives that make such affirmative action undesirable and divisive. Most likely they are trying to create a positive image of VicRoads as caring, diverse and socially responsible employer. It is a vanity project for the organisation that would like to cast itself in a positive light. I am sure they mean well but it is rather cynical to use real people who will end up suffering the negatives of affirmative action. By using Indigenous Australians as tokens in the diversity game VicRoads perpetrates the long-held elitist image of Aboriginals as good-for-nothing wards of the state who are not capable to stand on their own two feet without “special” help from the white man.
Thomas Sowell once wrote: “If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labelled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago, and a racist today.” VicRoads hiring strategy is a stark example of just how far down this slippery slope Australia currently is.