What Is Cultural Load?

What Is Cultural Load?

Cultural load is an important issue that often goes unseen in Australian workplaces. ‘Cultural load’ is the extra set of responsibilities that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees often carry, on top of their regular job duties.

So what exactly does cultural load look like? Well, Indigenous employees are often expected to be the go-to people for anything related to Indigenous matters. This could mean serving on committees, being a mentor, or fielding all sorts of questions from colleagues. But it's not just about showing up - they're also often relied upon to educate others about sensitive cultural issues and even push for big organisational changes.

This is a pretty heavy burden to bear. Imagine constantly having to engage with emotionally charged tasks and feeling the pressure to educate others, all while trying to do your regular job. It's no wonder that many Indigenous employees experience identity strain and burnout.

So, what can employers do to help? First and foremost, they need to recognise that cultural load exists and that it's a big deal. This means providing proper compensation and support, whether that's through adjusting workloads, creating specific roles like diversity officers, or implementing reconciliation action plans to boost cultural awareness across the board.

But it's not just about policies - it's about creating a genuinely supportive environment. This means going beyond the occasional nod to cultural diversity and really putting in the work to make the workplace safe and inclusive for everyone. And this effort needs to be authentic and ongoing, with buy-in from everyone in the organisation.

At the end of the day, easing the cultural load on Indigenous Australians in the workplace is about more than just reducing their burden. It's about creating workplace cultures that are truly inclusive and supportive. It's about moving from simply acknowledging diversity to actively participating in and advocating for positive cultural dynamics. Only by taking a comprehensive approach can we make real progress towards workplaces that are equitable and respectful for all employees, especially those who shoulder the weight of cultural load.