December | 2014
Defence Magazine cover, December 2014
Cover Story
The Indigenous Recruitment and Retention Manager, John Love. Photo by Lauren Larking

Strong Indigenous initiatives

By Darryl Johnston

A Wiradjuri man in the Directorate of Indigenous Affairs is working to build closer relationships with Indigenous communities and attract more Indigenous people to careers in Defence.

John Love is on a journey to discover his Aboriginal heritage and, at the same time, lead other Indigenous Australians on a journey within Defence.

The proud Wiradjuri man, a descendant of the stolen generations, is the Australian Public Service (APS) Indigenous Recruitment and Retention Manager within the Directorate of Indigenous Affairs. John manages a series of programs, broadly overseen by the Defence Civilian Committee, that aim to increase the numbers of and opportunities for Indigenous Australians in Defence’s APS workforce.

"My grandmother was taken from her family and placed in a girls' home. She doesn't know where she came from. So, with a lack of heritage and true identity, we associate ourselves with Wiradjuri country because that's where our family lives and where I grew up," John says

For many years, elders of John's family have been trying to trace the family's history but few written records exist.

"Not only is it a journey to try to find my family roots, it's also an education on Indigenous culture. I am quickly learning every Indigenous community is different," he says.

John is less than six months into his new role and likens it to his previous job where he was identifying, recruiting and developing new Australian rules football talent.

"I am taking on a mentoring role, as I did in football, keeping in regular contact with our new Indigenous staff and proactively dealing with issues to keep them employed. It's a two-way street, and because Defence is so dispersed, I am dealing with Indigenous people from a diverse range of cultures and regions. We are learning from each other."

Defence offers a range of programs to attract and retain Indigenous Australians.

The opportunities include traineeships, cadetships, graduate programs and affirmative employment initiatives. The programs target Indigenous tertiary students, first-time jobseekers and those already in the workforce who are seeking to improve their skills. John also manages the Jawun Indigenous Community Placement Program, in which Defence employees are seconded to work in Indigenous communities.

The programs aim to improve education and employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians in Defence, and to create a more diverse workforce.

"Defence is a respectful and inclusive employer that is proud of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff," John says.

One of his goals is to complement Defence's Indigenous employment agenda by broadening the management skills of non-Indigenous supervisors.

"We will be hosting an induction program to help raise their cultural awareness and understanding, and assist them in effectively managing their Indigenous staff. It will also help to dispel some of the perceptions and myths and play a role in keeping Indigenous staff employed in Defence," John says.

Despite being relatively new to the job, John believes his past football experience is coming into play and he has already scored some goals.

"I get a great kick being an Indigenous person and helping other Indigenous people to establish careers, whether it be in the AFL or in Defence."