How do you ensure that a richly diverse community is effectively represented by the health and community services organisations that serve it?

Like many regions in Australia, the community in Melbourne’s west includes a great deal of diversity on multiple dimensions including cultural and linguistic background, gender, sexuality, age, religion, different levels of ability and other factors.

HealthWest Partnership works collaboratively within this community to support an integrated approach to strengthening health and wellbeing. During 2017-18 HealthWest Partnership worked closely with an expert advisory panel from the health, community, employment and education sectors to develop the HealthWest Partnerships Standards for Workforce Mutuality.

The Standards are now being piloted, and Lirata Consulting is pleased to be leading the evaluation of the pilot.


What is Workforce Mutuality and why do we need it?

Workforce mutuality is a term coined by HealthWest, describing the extent to which the diversity of an organisation or a sector’s workforce reflects the diversity of the community it serves, as well as the level of responsiveness of an organisation or sector to the needs of a diverse community.

Diversity can be conceptualised in many ways, but workforce mutuality is unique in its breadth and scope to capture the multi-faceted and intersectional nature of diversity in any local community.

Examples of workforce mutuality in action might see the CEO sponsoring the development of an internal professional development pathway for staff from diverse backgrounds, staff being consulted to develop a calendar of cultural events relevant to the actual diversity of the organisation, or Board members including senior staff from a peak LGBTIQ+ community organisation.

Workforce mutuality has the potential to increase the participation of people from diverse backgrounds in the delivery of health and community services, as well as improving the ways in which organisations meet the needs of their communities. When an organisational workforce reflects their community, the benefits to those employed, and those they serve, are immense.

What are the Standards?

On the 17th May 2018 HealthWest launched the 1st edition of the Workforce Mutuality Standards. The Standards provide guidance to organisations in achieving a workforce that reflects the diversity of their community and is responsive to their needs.

There are 6 standards that organisations can use to guide their own self-assessment of workforce mutuality:

  • Standard 1: Making workforce mutuality a priority
  • Standard 2: Creating an organisational culture that values diversity
  • Standard 3: Building job pathways for a diverse community
  • Standard 4: Employing a diverse workforce
  • Standard 5: Supporting a diverse workforce
  • Standard 6: Improving consumer experience for people from diverse backgrounds

Importantly, workforce mutuality is not a set and forget proposition, it is a process that needs to be fully embedded in an organisation’s core.

Pilot evaluation

In July 2018, HealthWest commenced a pilot of the Standards, to test their application across a range of organisations. The pilot will gather feedback to assist in producing a second edition of the Standards, along with a self-assessment tool and evidence guide.

The Standards are being piloted by five organisations ranging across the health, aged care, child and family services, education and legal assistance sectors.

Lirata Consulting has been engaged to lead the evaluation of the Workforce Mutuality Standards pilot in order to gather rigorous and independent feedback on the Standards and the self-assessment process. During this evaluation we will use an online Feedback Register and interviews with organisational representatives and key stakeholders to inform HealthWest Partnership’s understanding of the feasibility, effectiveness and appropriateness of the Standards and the Self-Assessment process. Central to this will be an exploration of how the Standards can be improved and applied more broadly.

We look forward to collaborating with HealthWest and the five participating organisations to gather learnings from this important pilot.


Further information

The Workforce Mutuality Standards offer a powerful lens for examining issues of diversity and inclusion. How could they assist your organisation?

For more information about workforce mutuality or to request a copy of the Standards, visit the HealthWest Partnership website or contact HealthWest Workforce Mutuality Project Officer Dr Martin Plowman:

Mobile: +61 (0)3 9248 9664
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Workforce Mutuality video:

About Lirata Consulting

Lirata provides expert, independent consulting services in Australia and internationally. We assist funders and service providers to clarify the outcomes that matter in their work, to measure these outcomes and to evaluate and improve programs. Diversity and inclusion are key considerations in our work.

For more information or assistance, please contact Dr Leannda Read at Lirata Consulting:

Mobile: +61 (0)410 616 436
Landline: +61 (0)3 9457 2547
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