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Diverse workforce powers the economy, say top business leaders

5 February 20150 comments
Diversity in the workplace pic

Business leaders heading up a national cultural diversity campaign

Some of Australia’s most successful businesses are putting their money where their morals are by embracing a campaign to promote and harness cultural diversity in the workplace.

The high-profile group including – Commonwealth Bank CEO Ian Narev, Optus Chairman Paul O’Sullivan, Transfield Services CEO Graeme Hunt, Ernst & Young (EY) Chairman Michael Wachtel, Santos CEO David Knox and Accor Hotels COO Simon McGrath – all say that Australia’s cultural diversity can be used as a competitive advantage in business.

A pioneering television campaign launched Melbourne this month showcases how Australia’s diverse workforce has contributed to the success and prosperity of many leading organisations.

The Discover Diversity campaign was developed by the Migration Council Australia (MCA) to support awareness about Australia’s history as a migrant nation and strengthen inclusion.

The launch, at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum, came as ABS figures show the proportion of Australians who were born overseas hit its highest point in 120 years, with 28 per cent of the population – or 6.6 million people – born elsewhere.

As a major Australian employer, CEO of the Commonwealth Bank Ian Narev said the company’s diverse workforce was an asset in its banking business.

“Cultural diversity is one of Australia’s greatest assets. As a major Australian company, we will be successful only if we have a long term focus on making our workforce more diverse, and our culture welcoming and inclusive so all our people can thrive,” Mr Narev said.

Asia Pacific Chair of professional services firm EY, Michael Wachtel, is one of the key faces of the campaign and a strong advocate for diversity in the workplace.

“At EY we promote cultural diversity, not just because we ought to, but because it makes good business sense,” Mr Wachtel said.

“It’s the diversity of people, cultures, background and attitudes that give you the best and most innovative and creative outcomes,” he said.

MCA CEO Carla Wilshire said the campaign was a partnership with business to bring together some of the country’s largest employers to champion the benefits of Australia’s multicultural communities and encourage more organisations to strengthen their equity and diversity practice and policy.

“Our most successful corporate leaders recognise that a culturally diverse workforce is an asset to business and essential to drive future innovation and growth,” Ms Wilshire said.

“This national campaign reflects the overwhelming recognition within the business community that investing in Australia’s diverse workforce is integral to guarantee the future economic success of our nation,” she said.

Chairman of Optus, Paul O’Sullivan, said he was proud to lend his support to the campaign to highlight Australia’s competitive advantage in business.

“Cultural diversity at Optus is good business. Diversity is a key ingredient in the creativity and innovation that makes Optus a successful Challenger brand”, Mr O’Sullivan said.

CEO of Transfield Services Graeme Hunt said the iconic Australian company was a testament to the influence migrants have had shaping the face of Australian business.

“Transfield Services was formed by migrants more than 60 years ago and the value of our nation’s cultural diversity remains just as relevant today as it was then,” Mr Hunt said.

CEO of Santos David Knox said the resources industry relied on the diversity of Australia’s workforce to boost its business.

“Diversity is massively important for our company, Santos. It makes it a joy to work in a company with diverse cultures. The key thing for us is making great decisions and in making great decisions you need to understand the environment in which you work,” Mr Knox said.

Chief Operating Officer for Accor Pacific, Simon McGrath said in the hospitality industry diversity was critical to business success.

“In order for us to put our best foot forward and showcase the best of Australian hospitality and tourism we use the diversity of our nation to very effectively deliver that outcome,” Mr McGrath said.

The campaign features business leaders from a range of industries including the hotel, banking, resources and professional services sectors. To view the television videos or support the campaign visit

Sheree Peterson
AMES Staff Writer