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ATO to boost affirmative action after missing Indigenous staff targets


A mid-year report has shown the Tax Office is struggling to meet 2023–24 staff representation targets, with the problem particularly pronounced at senior levels.

By Christine Chen 12 minute read

The ATO is falling short of every target set to increase Indigenous staff representation this year but will look to step up affirmative action measures at senior levels, according to an interim report.

As part of its reconciliation process, the ATO aimed to have Indigenous people make up 3.5 per cent of its mid-level employees, 2 per cent of executive employees and 1.5 per cent of senior executives in 2023–24.

However, a mid-year summary of its Reconciliation Action Plan 2021–24 commitments shows it is currently failing to meet all three targets, with the gap particularly pronounced at senior levels.


According to the report, Indigenous people only comprised 2.9 per cent of mid-level and 1.1 per cent of executive employees. The ATO also had no senior Indigenous executives.

“We aren’t currently meeting our 2023-24 employee representation targets at higher levels. Therefore, we are pursuing options to increase representation,” the ATO said.

It said these options included conducting affirmative measures processes and identifying appropriate roles to fill from the APS SES 100 recruitment process.

Another focus area identified by the report was establishing “formal partnerships” with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, it said.

Formal partnerships under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap require “full and genuine partnerships” that increase trust between partners.

For “stronger partnerships”, formal partnerships must feature shared decision-making authority.

The ATO said while it had multiple business areas with “cooperative and mutually beneficial relationships” with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, it had no formal partnerships in place that met “stronger partnership” standards.

“We will continue to work with the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) to ensure we meet expectations, as we seek opportunities to pursue new partnerships,” it said.

The ATO’s struggle to boost internal Indigenous participation, particularly at higher levels, is reflective of a broader representation problem in the industry.

For example, CA ANZ has reported only 0.5 per cent of its 80,000 members identified as Indigenous, despite making up nearly 4 per cent of Australia’s population.

Some have speculated this was due to accounting being perceived as comparatively less attractive than fields like medicine or law, which had more tangible applications to Indigenous issues.

Indigenous advisers in the profession have said the lack of representation has meant it was “daunting” for Indigenous business owners to seek advice.

To address the gap, the ATO said it had various engagement channels with Indigenous clients, including online services, an Indigenous helpline and conducting face-to-face events. 

The ATO said it provided free tax services through over 20 community centres dedicated to Indigenous clients in 2023. ATO staff have also been required to complete online Indigenous Cultural Awareness training since July, it said.

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Christine Chen

Christine Chen


Christine Chen is a graduate journalist at Accountants Daily and Accounting Times, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting sector.

Previously, Christine has written for City Hub, the South Sydney Herald and Honi Soit. She has also produced online content for LegalVision and completed internships at EY and Deloitte.

Christine has a commerce degree from the University of Western Australia and is studying a Juris Doctor degree at the University of Sydney. 

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