More than 200 women from across the Victorian Public Service attended a sold-out workshop that we hosted at the Empowering Women Summit.

Our Deputy Commissioner Julia Griffith moderated the panel discussion and introduced our insightful, entertaining and thought-provoking panelists.

The panel discussed how everyone’s identity is complex and layered, and this makes us interesting. Tina talked about intersectionality and its impact on everyday life, when you are a person of colour or from a migrant background where there may be significant under-employment of people in their professions due to unconscious bias and structural barriers.

Chrissy talked about under representation of people with disability in employment in general, and the panel agreed that in some spheres of influence and policy design, there is a marked ‘same-ness’ about the people at the table.

They also had practical tips about how to do our work in a more human centred way — where all different kinds of humans are included! They suggested that having conversations and asking people questions about what they need is a good place to start.

Elise stressed the importance of measuring and counting if we want to make a difference, and Suzie explained how her Aboriginality is a source of strength, pride and resilience in her work and all aspects of her life.

Suzie and Chrissy agreed that ‘diversity’ should not be a competition, or a choice between prioritising employment for Aboriginal people or people with disability. We need to approach our inclusion work in collaboration, not silos, and encourage work between teams, branches and departments for most effective outcomes.

The panel agreed on the importance of having signs and symbolism for more culturally safe and supportive workplaces, but that these should not only be tokenistic. Julia reflected that while she hadn’t been a long-term user of the word ‘intersectionality’, the conversation really reflected how our identities have always been made up of different traits, backgrounds and layers. She added that we should all be striving for workplaces that allow us to bring our whole selves to work.

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion led us to assemble this great panel of inspiring women in the Victorian Public Service. The panel was a hit, with the audience very engaged with the theme ‘Intersectionality and Empowerment’.

Many thanks to our generous panelists:·

  • Elise Cafarella, Principal Advisor in the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation Creative, Sport and Visitor Economy at Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.
  • Dr Chrissy Thompson, Vice President Policy of the Victorian Public Service Enablers Network
  • Tina Kuek, Senior Policy Officer in the Disability and NDIS Branch at the Department of Health and Human Services
  • Suzie Coates, Manager, Aboriginal Employment and Cultural Safety in the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

About the Intersectionality framework

The intersectionality framework is now commonplace in Victorian Government policies.

The framework helps us explain our circumstances, our position in society and our experiences. It also helps to explain the ways in which we are able to take part, or unable to take part, in society.

Some people, communities and groups of people experience disadvantage outside of their control. While others experience unearned advantage in our society.

Individuals may experience disadvantage at certain times during their life and not others.

Individuals may also be in an advantageous position in some settings and not others.

Our position in society is dynamic and can change across settings and over time.