indigenous super rights


Mary Delahunty, former HESTA General Manager of Business Development & Policy was privileged to present at the Indigenous Workers Conference in Palm Cove in June 2017. She reflects on the work still ahead to ensure Indigenous workers can retire with dignity.  


I know the Indigenous story is the history of our land and our first peoples. And I understand the importance of accurately recording this history. But I find it hard to face.

In June 2017 HESTA supported a Queensland Council of Unions Indigenous Workers Conference in Townsville. A key focus of the conference was the commemoration of the Palm Island strike of 1957. HESTA is the first industry super fund to develop a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and we take our responsibilities very seriously.  

As the fund for the health and community services sector we have a large Indigenous member base. Larger still is the cohort of members dedicated to closing the health gap in Australia.

The event is, as predicted, very moving. Relatives of the Magnificent 7 strikers recollect those fateful few days when Indigenous rights took another step forward through unimaginable heartbreak. These stories, known to many of us, are especially hard to hear when told by the living. 

It‘s a timely reminder for me of the power of storytelling; an ancient technique HESTA is putting into practice. To move stories of retirement outcomes from the theoretical to the tangible. From the head to the heart.

Harder still is the discussion about contemporary issues – stolen wages and Community Development Program (CDP) arrangements. As we listen to the current debate about the appropriateness and accessibility of the reparations scheme, my mind wanders to the super attached to these wages.

What consideration has been given to the cumulative impact of stolen wages on already inadequate retirement savings?

I make a note for the next HESTA RAP.

I listen as CDP workers arrangements are discussed. Again the super factors spring to mind, the potential downward pressure on wages in the community sector devalues everyone’s work and impacts their retirement savings. Another note for our next RAP.

It was really special to be part of the launch of the First Nations Workers Alliance – a new union for the advancement of the rights of our first peoples. I join panellists Sally McManus from the ACTU, Cathy O’Toole, Federal Member for Herbert and Alf Lacey, Mayor of Palm Island.  

We talk about equity and employment. At HESTA we see only too well how inequities in a person’s working life are magnified in retirement. It’s frustrating for us to be having these conversations in 2017.  




The universal super movement is 30 years old. It is right and proper that we hold the system to the light and check if the concept of universality is really being delivered. Arguably, it’s falling short for anyone whose working life doesn’t mirror that of a non-Indigenous male. 

Dr Osei Wiafe, Research Fellow at the Griffith Centre for Personal Finance and Superannuation conducted one of the first extensive research projects on the super of Indigenous Australians last year.

The research, commissioned by the CSIRO-Monash Superannuation Research Cluster, found a 27% gap between the retirement savings of non-Indigenous and Indigenous workers. Indigenous males have better super outcomes than non-Indigenous females in Australia but the gap is entrenched and surely unacceptable.  

The super sector has made great strides in identifying this inequity. Now we need to begin serious work to fix it. Another note for the HESTA RAP.

This event has brought me closer to understanding why I find Indigenous history hard to face. It’s because it’s unfinished business. And now it’s our turn to finish it.

The HESTA Innovate RAP will be launched later this year.



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