Building Cultural Diversity

Setting Asian representation targets in leadership and supporting refugees entering the workforce are just some of the ways companies are building a more culturally diverse workplace. NEEOPA’s latest forum, kindly hosted by Deloitte, put diversity in the spotlight with nine speakers sharing their experience in areas such as refugee employment, Asian representation in leadership and growing organisational capability for diversity.

The speakers were stationed at different tables and participants were given an opportunity to circulate and spend quality time at each table. Below are the highlights of what each speaker shared.

Allianz Australia

With Australian demographics shifting from a traditionally European to Asian background, Allianz has set the goal of having 10 per cent Asian representation within the company’s leadership.

Head of Diversity and Sustainability Charis Martin-Ross shared how Allianz used ancestry as its data point in three areas: applicants, new hire appointments and current employees. An employee census was conducted using carefully crafted communications to outline the ‘why’, build the trust with employees and assure privacy. Once the data was collected, individualised, tangible and achievable targets were set.

Allianz is now looking for opportunities to apply learnings from gender initiatives to cultural diversity.

The Star Entertainment Group

The Star is no stranger to multiculturalism. Half of its domestic revenue comes from Asian customers; 40 per cent of its frontline workforce is of Asian heritage, and the company’s staff is collectively fluent in more than 70 languages. The organisation has also set a target of 20 per cent Asian representation in top leadership levels by 2020.

Christine Ung, Group Diversity and Inclusion Manager at the Star Entertainment Group, shared learnings from the company’s extensive cultural research. Over the last three years, The Star has conducted Asian customer research; gathered metrics from an employee engagement survey; run focus groups to better understand the career experiences of the Asian workforce, and developed a roadmap to address identified barriers.

The research provided an opportunity to understand organisation statistics and reasons for talent ‘drop-off’ points. It also highlighted the need to address issues through multiple levels, measure progress and persevere to achieve diversity.

Fire & Rescue NSW

In 2016, the NSW Government’s Secretaries Board committed to employing at least 100 refugees across the public sector. Sonja Braidner, Diversity Coordinator at Fire & Rescue NSW, shared FRNSW’s contribution through its participation in the Refugee Employment Program: a grassroots initiative which relies on refugees nominating themselves and meeting with employees at government-coordinated events.

Through this program, FRNSW employed Armenian Syrian refugee Ania Kebabjian as an administration support officer. According to Christine Herridge, Manager Business Operations – Community Safety Directorate, Ms Kebabjian has shaped the business team at FRNSW on both a professional and personal level. Employers like FRSW benefit from the program through a highly-skilled refugee cohort willing to participate in the NSW workforce.


CareerSeekers is a social enterprise that provides employment opportunities for asylum seekers and refugees who are mid-career professionals or university students. Ash Nugent, Deputy CEO, says the organisation offers CV writing support, teaches interview skills and runs a comprehensive pre-employment program in conjunction with various employment partners.

IAG is one of those partners. IAG has been providing internship opportunities for CareerSeeker participants for over a year. Jo Higgins, Organisation Architect at IAG, says the program is having a ripple effect across the company, with evidence of mindsets shifting and growth amongst those involved.

Many of the high-quality candidates have transitioned into permanent roles at IAG. Mohammed (Ali) Radhi, one of CareerSeeker’s candidates and People & Culture Coordinator at IAG, shared his personal journey as a refugee. His participation in the program has enabled him to achieve his dreams.

Beasley Intercultural

With 20 years’ experience in cultural training, Tamerlaine Beasley, Managing Director of Beasley Intercultural, spoke about what works when building cultural diversity capability.

According to Ms Beasley, inclusive leadership plays an important role in a highly-globalised world. To bring about culture change, though, companies must focus on more than just awareness. They need to work on shifting perspectives and building knowledge that is relevant to their market. Developing core skills such as listening, self-awareness of our behaviour on others and inclusive leadership is also crucial.

Ms Beasley also spoke about the organisational risks involved in building diversity. Ultimately, culture is about enabling everyone to participate – not just a set group of people. Cultural Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can help drive the cultural diversity agenda for the organisation. To affect organisation change, it needs to be led by leaders in the organisation with HR support.

The showcase demonstrated some fantastic initiatives but more importantly highlighted the need for these to be part of a strategic approach that is embedded across the whole organisation rather than stand alone.

Don’t miss out on our next forum on 12th September to hear from a panel of organisations sharing what they are doing in the indigenous employment space, from graduate and entry level roles, through to senior level employment. They’ll share their learnings and key insights, and also talk about how they’ve worked to ensure this new talent joins an inclusive organisational culture, through policy and procedural change.

Also, check out our updated website for more details on future forums as well as our new resources page with research, toolkits and case studies handpicked by D&I experts.

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