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Tuesday, 27 May 2003
Page: 15038

Mr JOHN COBB (3:13 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Would the minister advise the House what action the government is taking to improve the employment prospects of Indigenous Australians? What is the government doing in locations such as Moree to ensure that Indigenous Australians obtain more jobs?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for his question. Last night, at a Reconciliation Week function, the documentary Message from Moree premiered in the parliamentary theatrette. Moree used to be a byword for racial tension but, thanks to the passion, commitment and idealism of two people in particular, that town has now become a byword for practical reconciliation. Five years ago most of the Aboriginal people of Moree had never had a real job. Now most of them have enjoyed a real job, thanks to the work of the Aboriginal Employment Service, led by Dick Estens, a Moree cotton farmer, and Cathy Duncan, a public servant turned activist. With the help of $1.2 million provided by my department, the Moree Aboriginal Employment Service has placed more than 400 Aboriginal people in jobs since 1997. This has had the strong support of the local member, the Deputy Prime Minister.

My department has committed a further $1.3 million to the Aboriginal Employment Service to continue the work in Moree and, where possible, to extend this work to other towns. The success of the Moree employment service shows that individuals can make a difference—in this case, a determined business leader drumming up jobs and a determined Indigenous leader providing the mentoring necessary to keep Indigenous people in the jobs they have taken. Amidst all the gloom that so often envelops this whole issue of Indigenous advancement, the Moree miracle is a sunburst of hope and optimism, and it shows what can be achieved when government works with the grain of individuals and communities rather than against it.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.