Australia's human rights commission said its data-gathering had exposed a "dismal" lack of executive diversity and urged the country to "get serious" about "unlocking" its potential as a nation highly dependent on trade.
One in four citizens had non-European backgrounds — for example, Asia, Africa and Oceania — but minorities made up only 5 percent of Australia's senior leaders. Among Indigenous Australians, only one was a chief executive.
Its 44-page report, subtitled Inclusive Leadership Revisited, coincides with Australia's Gold Coast hosting of the Commonwealth Games, a 71-state fete derived from Britain's colonial past.
Lead author, Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, said among Australia's 372 chief executives and equivalent office-holders only 11 had non-European or indigenous backgrounds.
'Mere cricket team' among hundreds
That was "a mere cricket team," said Soutphommasane, a Sydney and Oxford philosophy graduate born in France to Lao and Chinese refugee parents.
Across Australia's public service, the leadership study continued, 99 percent of heads of federal and state government departments had white heritage.
And, just one of 39 vice-chancellors hailed from somewhere other than Europe. Among 30 front bench cabinet ministers none had non-European backgrounds.
Data needed to focus debate
The commission said more statistics-gathering was crucial to foster "deep" reflection and pointed out that Australia did not "yet officially collect comprehensive data on cultural diversity within organizations."
The findings reached so far, added the authors, had parallels in "under-represented cultural diversity" identified in many other "multicultural" countries.
It cited areport published by the consultancy McKinsey in January, showing that in the United States, black Americans comprised 10 percent of graduates but only 4 percent of senior executives. Similarly, Hispanics, Latinos and Asian Americans were underrepresented, it said.
In Britain, 22 percent of university students were identified as Black and Minority Ethnic, yet make up only 8 percent of British senior executives.
Australians feel 'insulted'
Addressing a conference on institutional racism last November at the Melbourne-based Deakin University, Soutphommasane, said many Australians felt "gravely" insulted by suggestions of underlying racism.
"People forget that racism is as much about impact as it is about intention. Just because someone doesn't have evil in their heart doesn't mean that a person wasn't harmed by a racist act,” according to a report by Britain's The Guardian newspaper.
Racism in New Zealand too
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged Tuesday that her country too "undeniably" had "racism in it."
"I think probably you'd be hard-pressed to find a country that didn't have racism in it," Ardern told TV3 broadcasting.
She was responding to an interview by film-maker Taika Waititi with the British magazine Dazed & Confused, who said his home New Zealand was "the best place on the planet, but it's a racist place."
The Australian Human Rights Commission study used four groupings: Anglo-Celtic spanning English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish; European including Italian, French, German and Greek; Non-European including Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, Turkish and Mexican; and Indigenous meaning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.