“I’m proud of my Aboriginal heritage”, states Lauren Read (18) as she restocks the shelves at Harvey Norman Warrawong. Read, an employee of Harvey Norman, recalls the racist taunts towards her Aboriginality at previous workplaces. “I’d get called pig nose, and often ask why I’m wearing shoes. Even my workmates made inappropriate comments.” In witnessing the anguish in her eyes, I also saw great pride and honour.
Aboriginal employment is a topical issue that ought to be more reported on in the media. However, racism in the workplace is also an issue that has slipped between the fingers of a frenzied media world. In observing Read’s work behaviour and ethics, and how she portrays herself around colleagues and customers, I am only lead to question deeper into her employment experiences. “You know it’s interesting, in each of my jobs in the hospitality industry, I am almost guaranteed to be regularly scrutinized, but in retail it’s like a different world, a much nicer world.” As Read wanders off to assist a troubled customer, I approach another employee to whom I was previously introduced to. In asking him several open questions, I was only received with positive responses. “She has got great high standards, she always presents well at work, she’s going into the defence force next year and has some really great goals. So I guess this is just a platform for her to move on to bigger and better things.”
As a descendant of the Wiradjuri Tribe, Read talks fondly of her family and her heritage. To believe that people think it’s okay to discriminate against someone because of their physical appearance and their ancestry is sickening. Lauren Read represents many young adults in the workplace from indigenous backgrounds that are not only racially abused, but refused work. This segregation is claiming opportunities for the indigenous population to make something of themselves. Those who have jobs but are pushed around and taunted are also faced with the ongoing battle of staying true to their identity and their ancestors.
I watch Lauren as she helps an elderly lady print out her photos. She comments on one of them “you have beautiful grandchildren, Ma’am”. Without generalising the indigenous population, many are overlooked in the workplace. A majority of them are hard-working, reliable and independent human beings and it is held strongly in my credence that this issue of unemployment and racism needs to be reported in current media.