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National strategy on Aboriginal employment

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The Commonwealth Government had devised a new national strategy to relieve the serious unemployment situation among the Aboriginal population, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Ian Viner said today.

This strategy included the introduction of a Community Development Employment Projects scheme, increased efforts to stimulate employment and training of Aboriginal people in private industry and the Commonwealth public service and the establishment of a national committee to stimulate interest at top management level in the problems of Aboriginal employment.

. Mr Viner said that on his visits to Aboriginal communities he had seen the detrimental effects of unemployment benefits on communities and individuals.

The working party on whose recommendations most decisions are based had found that lack of activity, when combined with unemployment benefits, had produced serious social problems such as alcoholism and other health hazards.


He had no doubt that Aboriginals wanted to work and to hold their heads high, ridding themselves of the demoralising label 'dole bludger' and the demeaning vicious circle of no work, no pride, no confidence and so no work.

The Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme was geared to break the circle by providing employment for Aboriginals living in ' remote or separate communities who did not form part of the open labour market and for whom job opportunities had always been scarce.

Finance for the scheme would be provided directly to individual Aboriginal councils, which in turn would pay for work performed by individual community members, preferably on a co-operative, part time or contractual basis.

The Minister said projects to improve the physical and social environ­ ment of communities would be encouraged. These.would include programs for youth activities, alcoholic rehabilitation, destruction of pests and afforestation

In line with the Government's policy of encouraging Aboriginals to manage their own affairs, under the CDEPs scheme it would be up to the Aboriginal councils and organisations to determine the projects it undertook and how it allocated its labour. .

The CDEPs would be implemented initially in about a dozen communities. If successful they would be progressively expanded to other communities.


Special training would be provided for Aboriginals who wished to acquire or upgrade their skills to equip them to either take over skilled jobs within their community now undertaken by non-Aboriginals or to join the open labour market outside the community. .

Mr Viner said he considered that private employers could play a major role in overcoming the problems of Aboriginal unemployment. tdith this in mind the Government proposed to expand the vocational training opportunities, especially tailored to Aboriginal needs to equip Aboriginals living in urban and rural areas with the skills or work experience necessary for them to . . obtain work on the open labour market.. .

The Government had decided to extend the National Employment and Training System (NEATS) in an effort to increase Aboriginal employment in the Australian Public Service and it was hoped that private employers and State Governments would follow the Commonwealth lead and make use of NEATS.

The national committee which will be responsible for persuading employers- to consider the employment needs of Aboriginals will be headed by a leading industrialist and made up of representatives of Aboriginal organisations and various Commonwealth Government departments, including the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. . .

The working party estimated that the actual level of unemployment in the Aboriginal labour force was approximately 50 per cent, or ten times the unemployment rate of Australia as a whole.

Although the number of registered unemployed - 12,218 in February 1977- represented more than one-third of the Aboriginal labour force, the working party had found that many Aboriginals did not or were unable to register with the Commonwealth Employment Service. .

It had also been found that despite CES placement of 6,600 Aboriginals in employment in 1976, the total registered as unemployed rose 1,800 during that period.

Mr Viner said unemployment statistics at the present excessive „ . extent did not reveal the full effects upon Aboriginal citizens. Through its inter relationships with health, housing, education and community development, unemployment had been seriously undermining the progress in Aboriginal affairs made by successive governments at considerable public expense since the'1967


The Minister said that fundamental to any long-term improvement in employment status of Aboriginals was an improvement in the level of educational attainment by Aboriginal students. . .

To this end he and the Ministers for Education and Employment and Industrial Relations would promote a redirection of education programs to prepare Aboriginals for a work environment or for specific job training. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will be responsible for coordinating these .