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Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Page: 1404

Indigenous Employment

Ms GRIERSON (Newcastle) (14:55): My question is to the Minister for Community Services, Indigenous Employment, Economic Development and the Status of Women. In light of the Prime Minister's release this morning of the Closing the Gap report, what progress is the government making in meeting its target of halving the employment gap for Indigenous Australians by 2018?

Ms COLLINS (Franklin—Minister for Community Services, Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development and Minister for the Status of Women) (14:55): I thank the member for Newcastle for her question. I know that she, like everybody in this place, is committed to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. We want more Indigenous Australians to know the dignity and the benefits of work. That is why we are managing the economy to support jobs and that is why we are working to close the gap on Indigenous employment. Halving the gap on Indigenous employment means an additional 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in jobs by 2018.

Despite the challenges, the current trends indicate we are making gains. In the last 2½ years over 100,000 placements were made by Job Services Australia for Indigenous jobseekers into work and training. We have committed over $650 million in four years to the reformed Indigenous Employment Program. In 2½ years this program has achieved 71,000 placements, 33,000 into employment and 38,000 into training. We are seeing businesses stepping up to the plate more than ever with unprecedented demand for Indigenous employees. We are working with employers to translate this into real and sustainable jobs. The government is also working with the corporate sector through the Australian Employment Covenant. Already the covenant has secured over 60,000 commitments from employers and this has seen more than 7,000 Indigenous jobseekers start in these jobs. Through the Indigenous Employment Program the government has also provided significant funding to the covenant and to employers with their own programs. The Indigenous Employment Program is flexible and responsive to the needs of employers, to Indigenous Australians and also their communities.

Opposition members: Boring.

Ms COLLINS: We are also providing support to Indigenous businesses to support economic development. We are providing $3.7 million in funding for the Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council. The council seeks out contracts from the private and government sectors and matches them to Indigenous businesses to supply. Also this government has kicked off the Indigenous Youth Career Pathways Program—$50 million over four years to deliver 6,400 school-based traineeships, to provide flexible one-on-one support for students to help them finish school while completing their traineeship.

Our job as a government is to make sure we give all Australians the opportunities they need to do well in life. No-one should be left behind because of their gender, their background or even where they live. As the Prime Minister said in her speech earlier today, Indigenous employment has increased sharply in recent decades but we are continuing to work to ensure that we close the gap.