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Media Release - Embargoed until 8 April 2024 Asian Australian Lawyers Association responds to 2024 Watermark Search International - Board Diversity Index landmark findings

7 April 2024

The Asian Australian Lawyers Association is very disappointed that the level of cultural diversity on Australia’s ASX 300 boards has stalled over the past decade, according to the landmark findings of the 2024 Watermark Search International Board Diversity Index.

In 2024, only 6.6% of ASX300 directors have a non-European background and this includes non- European Anglo-Saxon directors from countries like USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa.

In 2017, 90.5% of ASX300 directors had an Anglo-Celtic background, increasing to 91.2% in 2024.

This is despite the 2021 Census revealing that 27.6% of Australians were born overseas and 48.2% of Australians have at least one parent born overseas. Further, approximately 1 in 4 Australians have a non-European background and around 18% of Australians have an Asian background.

The Watermark Index states that ASX300 boards “could be described as the ‘whitest shade of pale’” and that “we’re often simply replacing white men with white women from a similar background.”

AALA National Vice-President, Belinda Wong, said: “The levels of multicultural, First Nations, LGBTIQA+ and disabled representation on ASX 100, 200 and 300 boards are disappointingly low. The composition of Australian boards does not represent the diversity of the talent in the communities that they serve.

“Multicultural communities, which include AALA’s diverse membership of over 1,000 members, are highly qualified and aspire to serve our Australian community in roles where we can best utilise our skills, lived experience, cultural backgrounds and linguistic capabilities.

“By failing to raise the representation of multicultural communities on Australian boards, our institutions risk succumbing to inequitable and fixed expectations, where stubbornly monocultural boards oversee an increasingly diverse workforce to which they bear little resemblance.”

Katrina Rathie, AALA NSW Patron, said: “These entrenched structural issues affect access to opportunities and can result in directors being chosen based on old school networks and ties. Unconscious affinity bias, fishing from the same pond and a lack of transparency around access to merit-based selection processes prevents new blood being found.

“Forward thinking and enlightened chairs and their recruiters need to look more widely to find and meet talented candidates from a variety of multicultural backgrounds who are hungry for opportunities to shine. I know so many amazingly skilled culturally diverse men and women just waiting for the call that never comes.

“More needs to be done to connect the talent with the opportunities to provide the diverse talent pool for Australia to grow and succeed in the markets of tomorrow.”

Matt Floro, AALA National President, said: “Of course, appointments to leadership should be made on merit. But, in doing so, we should be careful not to entrench a hereditary meritocracy, drawn from a narrow cultural, socioeconomic, and professional hue.

“Ten years of data show that the dial hasn’t moved on cultural diversity. AALA is committed to advocating for change. We will be the change we want to see.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Belinda Wong,

240407 AALA Media Release - Watermark Board Diversity Index 2024
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