A cohort of 42 professionals belonging to Leadership WA visited Karratha last week to better understand the issues that face our region and see real life examples of organisations achieving outstanding outcomes through leadership.
A day with Aboriginal employment services company REFAP revealed the organisation has set standards that will be aspired to by the professionals.
Robin McLellan, CEO of Leadership WA, said REFAP has addressed a need in society and had taught the group a few take home lessons.
“REFAP has really made a difference with their outstanding leadership skills and values,” Robin said.
“I think we all recognize that we need to address the issues related to indigenous inclusion in the economy in a different way,” Robin said.
“To see REFAP taking a big problem, a big philosophical issue and break it down to one step at a time, that was very inspiring.
“They’re using skills they learnt in their former corporate roles, and marrying them with the traditional cultures of the elders and that just works. You’ve actually got somebody from the region helping them move ahead.”
Robin shared that the trip to Karratha has changed not only herself personally, but also her understanding of Aboriginal employment across the board.
“What this trip has changed for me is the need to take affirmative action in my corporate environment to start bringing indigenous people in. That’s firmly on my agenda as a leader in my community - I need to do something.
“Hopefully we can learn and highlight this to the rest of the state. We need to help more people see these stories.”
REFAP CEO Triscilla Holborrow said the visit reaffirmed their vision for the community.
“A lot of people still don’t have an understanding of how to employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and sometimes it’s better to work with someone doing it and succeeding, and that’s ok,” Triscilla explained.
“When I started REFAP, I just wanted to employ Aboriginal people. I wanted to bring people out of poverty, I wanted to bring people out of unemployment and just try and get contracts to get people employed. What I intended to start was something small and comfortable, now six years down the road we have up to 70 staff and diverse contracts in different industries.“
The success of REFAP is clear, with most companies aiming for a 2-3 per cent Aboriginal workforce, Triscilla is walking the talk, with 70 per cent of her staff indigenous.
“When I get home at the end of the day and wind down it’s then I reflect think on the highlights of the day and I’m very humbled by it,” Triscilla said.
“I know the business has grown so much and I’m glad Leadership WA recognise our resources work and can help retain Aboriginal people in employment.
“I’m glad we’ve opened some eyes up and changed some perceptions. I’m glad we had the opportunity to share our story with such a big audience, Leadership WA.”
For more information about REFAP’s accomplishments and services please visit www.refap.com.au.