Inquiry into Indigenous employment

House Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs

Committee activities (inquiries and reports)

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June 2007


© Commonwealth of Australia 2007

ISBN 978-0-642-78958-7 (Printed Version)

ISBN 978-0-642-78959-4 (HTML Version)


Membership of the Committee
Terms of reference
List of abbreviations
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 The positives
Chapter 3 Economic independence
Chapter 4 Leading by example
Chapter 5 Education and training
Chapter 6 The impediments
Chapter 7 Role of government
Minority Report
Appendix A - Submissions
Appendix B - Public Hearings
Appendix C - Exhibits

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The Positives

The Aboriginal face on the Australian $50 note is David Unaipon, author, inventor and sometimes thought of as "Australia's Leonardo". As a remarkable example of the capacity of Indigenous people, I am sure that there are many David Unaipons across Australia and I dedicate this foreword to his memory and the future creativity of every Indigenous Australian.

In discussing our request to the Minister of the need for a positive approach to Indigenous matters, employment was an area where progress could be demonstrated. At a time of strong economic performance at the national level and with workforce shortages a growing reality, the opportunities for further development of Indigenous employment appeared to be significant.
Over the past two years we were fortunate to share the views and better understand the outcomes for many individuals, companies and the wider community in this vital human activity.

The central role of work and the workplace in most Australian's lives is something that we perhaps take for granted - but the lessons of the past two years remind all of us that the variation in workforce participation by Indigenous people is very much a result of a complex set of factors which some achieve with significant success and others have a more limited result.

The above is very much a two way street with some employers leading the way with many employees open to opportunities and both able to achieve great results.

The recurring theme of many people who presented before the Committee was the overwhelming impact of welfare policies as a deterrent to sustainable employment. The need for Government policies to strike a better balance between the incentives for work and the incentives to be distracted by welfare is vital.

Our inquiry attempted to seek out the committed employers and employees and understand their views and what motivated them to achieve and these experiences are documented from that perspective. Their views are the basis of current progress and I thank them for their willingness to share with the Parliament their experiences in the hope that policy makers will better understand the value that employers and employees found for their general and economic well-being.

I acknowledge and thank my fellow Committee Members, all staff for their patience and tolerance and all members of the Australian community who participated in our inquiry to offer not only a better employment outcome for more Australians but to further unlock the economic future for Indigenous people.

Mr Barry Wakelin MP

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Membership of the Committee


Mr Barry Wakelin MP

Deputy Chair

The Hon Dr Carmen Lawrence MP


Ms Annette Ellis MP


Mr Peter Garrett MP


Mr Andrew Laming MP (from 28 February 2006)


Mr Andrew Robb MP (until 28 February 2006)


The Hon Peter Slipper MP


The Hon Warren Snowdon MP


Dr Andrew Southcott MP


The Hon Wilson Tuckey MP


The Hon Danna Vale MP

Committee Secretariat


Ms Joanne Towner

Inquiry Secretary

Ms Cheryl Scarlett

Research Officers

Ms Kate Tubridy (8/9/2005 - 16/5/2006)


Ms Samantha Mannette (from 8/9/2005 to 26/5/2006)


Ms Zoe Smith (from 8/8/2006 to 11/11/2006)

  Ms Kylie Weston-Scheuber (from 28/11/2005 to 24/2/2006)
Administrative Officers Ms Kate Tremble (from 27/6/2005 to 15/10/2006)
  Ms Jazmine De Roza (from 1/2/2005 to 6/11/2006)
  Ms Melita Caulfield (from 19/10/2006)
  Ms Isabella Johnston (from 27/11/2006 to 20/5/2007)

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Terms of Reference

That the Committee inquire into positive factors and examples amongst Indigenous communities and individuals, which have improved employment outcomes in both the public and private sectors; and

  1. recommend to the government ways this can inform future policy development; and

  2. assess what significant factors have contributed to those positive outcomes identified, including what contribution practical reconciliation has made.

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List of abbreviations


Australian Bureau of Statistics


Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry


Aboriginal Education Council


Aboriginal Employment Strategy


Australian Football League


Arnhemland Progress Association


Altering Lives One at a Time Program


Australian and New Zealand Banking Group


Australian Public Service


Australian Qualifications Framework


Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation


Brisbane City Council


Breaking the Unemployment Cycle


Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association


Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research


Community Development and Employment Projects


Cairns and District Regional Housing Corporation


Chief Executive Officer


Council of Australian Governments


Department of Education, Science and Training


Department of Employment and Workplace Relations


Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Department of Family and Community Services


Higher Education Contribution Scheme


Home Ownership Program


Indigenous Business Australia


Indigenous Coordination Centre


Indigenous Employment Centre


Indigenous Enterprise Partnerships


Indigenous Housing Authority Northern Territory


Indigenous Land Corporation


Indigenous Land Use Agreement


Indigenous Pastoral Program


Jobs for Young People


Koori Business Network


Larrakia Development Corporation


Mentoring Aboriginal Training and Employment Scheme


Minerals Council of Australia


Memoranda of Understanding


National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey


Non-government organisation


Northern Land Council


North West Mobile Force


National Tertiary Education Union


Northern Territory Public Service


Order of Australia


Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination


Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet


Registered Training Organisation


South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy


Shared Responsibility Agreement


Structured Training and Employment Programme


Technical and Further Education


Tasmanian Investment Corporation


Vocational Education and Training


Workplace English Language and Literacy Program


Youth Employment Scheme

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List of recommendations

Construction and maintenance programs

Recommendation 1

The Committee recommends that the Minister propose that the corporate governance procedures and the sound business principles under which the current Board of the Cairns and District Regional Housing Corporation are operating (noting the average of 70 per cent local Indigenous labour component in their maintenance and building programs) be considered as a model practice for other Indigenous housing and tenancy corporations (paragraph 3.13).

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that all Federal Government construction contracts in regional areas give due recognition to aspirational imperatives for Indigenous employment outcomes (paragraph 3.22).

Tender requirements

Recommendation 3

The Committee recommends that the Federal Government amend government service delivery tender requirements and contracting processes to recognise and encourage Indigenous involvement (paragraph 3.23).

Indigenous employment by small businesses

Recommendation 4

The Committee recommends that the Federal Government ensure that small businesses employing Indigenous people receive comparable support to that received by the large business sector (paragraph 3.63).


Recommendation 5

The Committee recommends that the relevant Government departments that administer programs providing micro-finance and small business assistance to Indigenous people, actively promote such programs and facilitate better access to that support (paragraph 3.85)

Funding for mentors

Recommendation 6

The Committee recommends that the Federal Government provide adequate resources for mentoring in addition to the funding provided for training and employment of Indigenous Australians (paragraph 4.39).


Recommendation 7

The Committee recommends that given the importance of education to future employment possibilities, the Government consider requests from Indigenous communities in relation to their preferred options for stronger incentives to encourage school attendance (paragraph 5.32).

Recommendation 8

The Committee recommends that the Federal Government evaluate and fund a range of options to improve educational outcomes including but not limited to, Indigenous teaching aides, tutors and individualised learning plans (paragraph 5.41).

National Indigenous Cadet Scheme

Recommendation 9

The Committee recommends that the Government:

  • review the National Indigenous Cadet Scheme to identify the most productive avenues for its expansion;
  • actively promote cadetships to Indigenous students at the matriculation level as a means of continuing their education; and
  • provide public service rotational opportunities for Indigenous cadets in Indigenous organisations and in the private sector (paragraph 5.89).

Work experience

Recommendation 10

The Committee recommends that the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination develop a model which allows Indigenous employees of non-government organisations to experience work within the public sector (paragraph 5.93).

Public servants in regional and remote areas

Recommendation 11

The Committee recommends that the terms and conditions offered to all Government employees in communities not disadvantage local employees compared to those recruited from elsewhere (paragraph 6.24).

Private sector Indigenous employment

Recommendation 12

The Committee recommends that the best practice models within industries like the mining industry be understood, promoted and encouraged by Government as one of the best models to achieve greater Indigenous participation in the workforce (paragraph 7.128).

Recommendation 13

The Committee recommends that the Government promote the Memorandum of Understanding of the Minerals Council of Australia and the Indigenous Land Corporation models as best practice which could be adopted by other sectors (paragraph 7.130).

Recommendation 14

The Committee recommends that the Government disseminate innovative strategies with respect to Indigenous employment within and between public and private sectors and the implementation of best practice within the public service where appropriate (paragraph 7.131).

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