Closing the gap on Indigenous employment

By Angela Dorizas

Joining the ranks of the federal public service last week were sixty-two Indigenous Australians, ready to begin their career in government.

Established by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) the Indigenous Australian Government Development Program provides Indigenous Australians with accredited training and work experienced in the public service.

The program is part of the Federal Government’s commitment to closing the gap on Indigenous employment by 2018.

Participants in this year’s inaugural intake visited Parliament House on Thursday, where they were welcomed by Minister for Employment Participation Mark Arbib.

Senator Arbib said the Government was committed to increasing employment and educational opportunities for Indigenous Australians.

“I wish each of the participants success in their training and employment, whether they are based in Canberra or in offices in state capitals,” he said.

“While 62 people started orientation and training this week an additional 15 to 20 people will join the program in September.

“Participants will take up positions within the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations or one of the nine other partner agencies – the Australian Federal Police; Centrelink; Defence; Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; Finance and Deregulation; Human Services; Resources Energy and Tourism; Veterans Affairs; and Infrastructure.”

The program was established by DEEWR as a component of its Reconciliation Action Plan.

Senator Arbib said through the program and other Indigenous employment initiatives, DEEWR had achieved its target of 330 Indigenous staff by 30 June 2010.

“The department has 349 Indigenous staff, representing six per cent of its workforce – the second highest employer of Indigenous staff in the Australian Public Service.”

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The Aboriginal Employment Strategy (AES) is a National Centre for Indigenous Excellence and arguably Australia’s most successful organisation helping bring about positive social change by supporting Indigenous Australians in establishing successful careers.

The AES welcomes the appointment of Simon Crean as Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and Social Inclusion.

It’s time for new energy. It’s time for a strong focus on the issues and barriers to success facing Indigenous Australians seeking long-term and meaningful employment. It’s time to break new ground again.

The AES has helped establish thousands of careers for Aborigines around the country. We’re making headway. But, it’s now time to collectively make significant and real change happen.

We agree with Julia Gillard: we don't need a "big Australia". What we need is a skilled Australia and this can be achieved through greater focus on employment, training and opportunity for Indigenous Australians.

It all begins with strong policy and requires an ongoing commitment to fostering indigenous success.

The AES looks forward to working closely with Mr Crean to truly “close the gap”.

Dick Estens, AO
Aboriginal Employment Strategy chairman

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