Mixed reception for indigenous jobs plan

HOPE and scepticism greeted the Federal Minister for Employment Participation Brendan O'Connor on a flying visit to Casino last week.

The Minister met with representatives of indigenous communities in the Page electorate to discuss reforms to indigenous employment programs.

The reforms aim to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous employment by helping 10,000 indigenous Australians find and keep jobs during the next decade.

The plan was described as 'a bit optimistic' by Aboriginal Corporation for Employment and Training client services consultant Geraldine Turnbull.

“The Government needs to do our job for a month and see the effects obstacles such as inadequate transport, poverty, mental health issues and a stigma that indigenous Australians 'don't work' have on gaining employment,” she said.

“I have a 16-year-old client who wants to work but needs skills, a licence and a car. How is he supposed to get all of that?”

Manager of Aboriginal Corporation for Employment and Training Tony Perkins said he hoped the Federal Government was serious about finding a long-term solution.

“There is a trend of pushing Aboriginal people into jobs such as fruit picking and lawn-mowing, but to get rid of poverty the Government has to get serious about helping them take proper jobs,” he said.

Mr O'Connor said reforms to indigenous employment programs would focus on proper training programs, making employing indigenous Australians attractive to corporate Australia and listening to indigenous views on how to improve indigenous employment prospects.

Ms Turnbull said latest figures showed 30 per cent of indigenous people on the North Coast were under 15 and would soon enter the workforce.



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