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Coles is now the largest employer of Indigenous Australians

Coles plans to increase the number of Indigenous workers to 5,500. Images: Getty
Coles plans to increase the number of Indigenous workers to 5,500. Images: Getty

Coles has increased its Indigenous headcount from 65 to 4,200 in eight years, and plans to raise that number to 5,500 by 2023, the supermarket giant announced today.

The company had originally set a target of 3,000 workers by 2021, but hit 4,200 workers by 2019.

The supermarket company worked with Aboriginal Employment Strategy, the Australian Indigenous Business Alliance Group, Wunan Foundation, and the MEEDAC Aboriginal Corporation to achieve that number.

“We appreciate the contribution of all of our partners, but it’s especially fantastic for a national organisation like Coles to work with us to empower the Indigenous communities by investing in their abilities and providing real work opportunities to strengthen their futures,” said Wunan general manager of programs Dr John Scougall.

The company is now the largest corporate Indigenous employer in the country, with Coles head of Indigenous affairs Russell James citing an emphasis on providing an inclusive environment as key to the growth.

Coles now aims to employ 5500 Indigenous Australians by 2023. Within that, Coles hopes to increase the number of Indigenous staff in trade and leadership roles from 200 to 500.

Coles’ workforce is made up of 3.6 per cent Indigenous Australians, with an increase to 5,500 Indigenous workers set to bring that percentage to 5.5 per cent.

Coles renewal support manager Therese Laverty added: “Coles has broken down the barriers where Indigenous people can think they can come and work with us, because the support is genuinely there.

“I believe Coles is giving Indigenous people an opportunity that they may not otherwise receive because of their situation or upbringing.”

Laverty began working as a checkout operator at Coles in 1987 but has now worked in a number of leadership roles.

“It’s like it doesn’t even need to be a box anymore—it’s just part of how we do business. Now, everyone shows up, and if you’re the best person for the job, you’re in.”

This week (27 May - 3 June) marks Reconciliation Week and the anniversary of the 1967 referendum which saw Indigenous Australians included in the census. This came five years after Indigenous Australians were granted the right to vote in 1962.

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