The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Supporting cross-cultural brokers is essential for employment among Aboriginal people in remote Australia

Yiheyis T. Maru A B and Jocelyn Davies A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, PO Box 2111, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: Yiheyis.maru@csiro.au

The Rangeland Journal 33(4) 327-338 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ11022
Submitted: 2 May 2011  Accepted: 11 October 2011   Published: 29 November 2011

Abstract

Employment is generally considered as essential for improving individual and social livelihoods and wellbeing in Australia. Typically, employment rates are low among Aboriginal people living in remote regions of Australia. Often this is attributed to a lack of mainstream labour markets. However, Aboriginal employment participation is low even in remote places where there are employment opportunities, creating a seemingly paradoxical situation of lots of job vacancies and lots of unemployed locals. Social networks are one of the factors that contribute to this phenomenon, and that can potentially help to address it. We applied social network and social capital theory in research in the Anmatjere region of central Australia. Our findings indicate that Aboriginal people have strong and dense bonding networks but sparse bridging and linking networks. While the existence of such ties is supported by research and observation elsewhere in remote Australia, the implications for employment have not been considered from the perspective of social network theory. Dense bonding networks reinforce, and are reinforced by, Aboriginal norms of sharing and reciprocity. These underpin the Aboriginal moral economy but can have negative influence on motivation to engage with mainstream employment opportunities that are driven by workplace and market norms. Brokers who can bridge and link Aboriginal individuals and their dense social networks to potential employers are essential for Aboriginal people to be able to obtain trusted information on jobs and have entrée to employment opportunities. Brokers also foster new norms that mediate the conflicting values and expectations held by potential Aboriginal employees and employers, who are generally not Aboriginal people. Social network theory suggests that bridging and linking provides advantage to the broker. However, stress and burnout are readily suffered by the people who broker networks with divergent values in cross-cultural settings. To improve employment outcomes and expand livelihood options for Aboriginal people in remote Australia, it is essential to recognise, support and recruit brokers.

Additional keywords: brokerage, closure, Indigenous livelihoods, social capital, social networks.


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