- Minister for Community Services, Indigenous Employment and Economic Development
- Minister for the Status of Women
Thanks Ray [Martin MC] and good morning everyone. It’s a pleasure to be part of GenerationOne’s third birthday celebrations.
Thank you Matilda [House] for your Welcome to Country.
I too wish to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet today, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present. I extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are here this morning.
I’d also like to acknowledge:
- Tony Abbott—Leader of the Opposition
- Jenny Macklin—Minister for Indigenous Affairs
- My parliamentary colleagues
- Andrew Forrest—Non-Executive Chairman Fortescue Metals Group and Founder of GenerationOne
- Warren Mundine—CEO, GenerationOne
- Leah Armstrong—CEO Reconciliation Australia
- Australian Employment Covenant (AEC) representatives
- Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for inviting us here this morning. Today is the Australian Employment Covenant’s third birthday—and there’s good cause for celebrating.
Since the AEC was founded by Andrew Forrest in 2008 it has surpassed its target of 50,000 job pledges for Indigenous Australians. Under the AEC, 335 employers have committed to more than 60,000 jobs and GenerationOne reports that more than 14,200 Indigenous Australians have taken up these jobs.
This Australian Government signed up with the Australian Employment Covenant in 2009 in what’s proving to be a productive partnership. Congratulations to everyone involved.
As Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development I commend GenerationOne and the Australian Employment Covenant for their efforts in tapping into employer demand for Indigenous employees and helping to close the gap.
As you know the Australian Government pledged in 2008 to halve the gap in employment between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians aged 15 to 64 years by 2018.
It remains one of our most important and ambitious targets.
Employment is one of the vital indicators of our progress in reconciliation with Australia’s first peoples. Each job brings opportunity.
Government commitment under the Australian Employment Covenant
Supporting the participation of Indigenous Australians in the workforce and in business is an integral part of meeting our important employment target.
In addition to the achievements of GenerationOne, Reconciliation Australia reports that 1.7 million Australians now work for an organisation with a Reconciliation Action Plan in place.
Just on Monday, Crown’s Chairman James Packer (who is here this morning) launched Crown’s Reconciliation Action Plan and committed to creating 2000 indigenous jobs by 2021.
Ensuring that this demand from employers translates into sustainable jobs for Indigenous Australians is critical.
Crown, for instance, is one of the many employers to receive funding from the Australian Government to create jobs for Indigenous Australians.
We’ve provided over $73 million in 91 contracts to employers such as ANZ Bank, BHP Billiton, Coles, Compass Group, Crown Casinos, Fortescue Metals Group, Group Training Australia, Linfox, Macmahon, Rio Tinto, Transfield Services and Woodside.
The Australian Government will continue to meet its commitment by providing direct assistance to many of the employers who have signed up to the Covenant and by providing Indigenous job seekers with pre-vocational training and other support to help them to take up the jobs available through the AEC.
Since 1 July 2009, we’ve allocated more than $150 million to Covenant employers through the Indigenous Employment Program (IEP).
We have also provided over $7 million to the AEC directly since 2009 through the IEP for more than 46,000 job commitments.
Throughout this process, we have worked closely with GenerationOne and we will continue to work closely with GenerationOne and employers to meet our commitment to halve the gap in Indigenous employment outcomes by 2018.
Consultation with the sector
I have had the opportunity to meet with many employers and Indigenous businesses.
Regular discussions with employers are critical to ensuring we can continue to develop opportunities for Indigenous Australians to be employed.
I have visited many places in Australia from Bourke in Western NSW, Far North Queensland and the Pilbara in Western Australia to see first-hand how things work in rural and remote Australia.
I thank Fortescue, Woodside and Rio Tinto for their hospitality and co-operation during my visits. It is the commitment from companies such as these that makes a real difference to Indigenous employment in remote areas.
For example, around 60 per cent of workers of the 250 Indigenous employees at Rio Tinto Alcan in Weipa are local Aboriginal people.
Late last year, I asked the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to conduct a series of roundtables between December 2012 and February 2013 to consult with IEP employers operating in remote Australia.
I want to ensure that existing employment and training opportunities are captured with the imminent introduction of the Remote Jobs and Communities Program (RJCP).
As many of you will know, from 1 July the RJCP will provide a more streamlined and flexible employment and participation service in remote Australia.
With funding of $1.5 billion over five years, the new program will build on the strengths of existing services: Job Services Australia (JSA), Disability Employment Services (DES), the Indigenous Employment Program, and Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP).
The Government is close to making announcements on successful providers and the next important step of consultations with remote-based employers will begin soon after.
Indigenous Employment Program
The Indigenous Employment Program is an important component in the Government’s employment services framework for linking Indigenous Australians to jobs.
Since we came to Government, the IEP has funded 2914 projects worth over $540 million.
This morning I want to reassure all of you that the Government remains committed to the Indigenous Employment Program.
The IEP continues to achieve excellent results in employment outcomes for Indigenous people and in working in partnership with employers and industries to ensure workplaces are equipped with the skills, knowledge and expertise to provide sustainable career pathways for Indigenous Australians.
The existing Indigenous Employment Program has achieved more than 105,000 employment and training placements since 2009.
To meet the Closing the Gap employment target, the contribution of IEP needs to be maximised and the program needs to be delivering the best possible outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people while responding to areas of growing labour market demand.
We need to ensure that an ever expanding pool of employers of all sizes and across all sectors can build and sustain a strong Indigenous workforce at all levels within their organisations.
We also need to find ways to better harness and share the innovative models and approaches to Indigenous employment that have been developed with some employers under the IEP program. This includes finding ways to ensure that successful approaches become systemically embedded in business as usual practices in workplaces across the country.
I have directed the department to explore with employers, Indigenous businesses and peak organisations how the IEP could be better administered to ensure that investment is targeted to areas of greatest need and opportunity and that maximises the program's contribution to the Closing the Gap employment target.
At the same time, we need to consider how changes to the program's administration could provide greater certainty for stakeholders around IEP funding decisions and clarifying access to the program.
The department will shortly release a discussion paper and commence consultations to seek stakeholder views on these important issues.
I look forward to the results of this consultation process on how we move forward.
The work being done by GenerationOne and the former AEC in raising awareness and changing attitudes is making a major contribution to the task of closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage.
The Australian Government stands ready to continue to work with GenerationOne to support linking Indigenous Australians with real jobs and providing the necessary support for job seekers and employers to achieve this.
There are many Australians committed to creating more jobs for indigenous Australians and to support them to keep those jobs.
Each one of these individuals and organisations has their own ideas and methods in working to achieve their aims.
GenerationOne is a leader in this regard and as such, I talk regularly with Warren Mundine and I look forward to continuing to work with him and all of you into the future.
Congratulations again to GenerationOne on turning three and thank you for your leadership in encouraging employers to commit to employing Indigenous Australians.