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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5003

Indigenous Employment

Mr WINDSOR (New England) (14:32): My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development and relates to the Australian Employment Covenant signed in 2008. Given the successful Indigenous employment retention rates achieved by the program, could the minister update the House on the government's position on progressing the training for actual jobs methodology under the covenant and on the vocational training and employment centre proposal espoused by Mr Andrew Forrest?

Ms COLLINS (FranklinMinister for Community Services, Minister for the Status of Women and Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development) (14:33): I thank the member for New England for his question. I know he has shown an interest in Indigenous employment for quite some time now and I know that he, like the government, is very committed to closing the gap on Indigenous employment, and I value his interest in this very important subject.

The government signed the Australian Employment Covenant in 2008. Since 2009, through the Indigenous Employment Program, there have been more than 83,000 placements of Indigenous Australians into jobs or training. Of that 83,000, more than 38,000 of those placements have been into actual jobs. We are very committed to our target of closing the gap. When it comes to the 61,000 job commitments from the Australian Employment Covenant, the Australian government has supported the Australian Employment Covenant with more than $7 million so far for their Indigenous Employment Program.

We have been working with the Australian Employment Covenant to ensure that when these jobs come online that we actually have Indigenous Australians trained and ready to take them up. It is important to remember that not all of the jobs come online straight away. They are forward commitments of large companies across Australia. In fact, we already have more than 73 covenant employers for which we are providing direct support today of more than $132 million. These job placements currently are with companies such as Coles, Woolworths, some of the big banks, Accor Hotels and Linfox. I am in regular contact with the Australian Employment Covenant and I have also met several times with GenerationOne in relation to Indigenous employment. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate those employers that are taking their commitments very seriously indeed.

I visited the Pilbara last week. I visited the Fortescue Metals VTEC model. I also went and visited Rio Tinto, Woodside, Ngarda Civil and Mining to look at some of their Indigenous employment programs. The VTEC model is just one of those. I understand the commitment of Mr Forrest and of the other companies when it comes to Indigenous employment. What I have said is that we want to do an evaluation of the Indigenous employment programs such as VTEC before we commit any further funding. That evaluation will look at real outcomes for Indigenous Australians and it will also look at value for money for taxpayers for these programs. The Indigenous Employment Program is funded for $650 million over four years and we are very committed to ensuring that we have Indigenous Australians in jobs and that we continue to close the gap on Indigenous employment.