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Thursday, 1 May 1980
Page: 2023

Senator KILGARIFF - I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The Federal Government has indicated on several occasions its intention to encourage employment opportunities among the Aboriginal people if Australia. Having in mind the need for planning and action in this regard, particularly in the country areas of Australia, what positive planning has been carried out? Rather than continuing the line of negative thinking and supporting people by unemployment benefit, what plans are there for the future of Aboriginal employment?

Senator CHANEY -Senator Kilgariff has raised an important matter which has engaged the attention of the Government for some time. He asked the question in the context of very high rates of unemployment among Aboriginal people, particularly in rural areas. I acknowledge the seriousness of the matter which he has raised. As to encouraging employment for Aboriginals, there has been a recent initiative on the part of the Department of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, Mr Viner, who has a particular interest in Aboriginal affairs because of his previous ministry, in that there has been a further development of the national employment strategy for Aboriginals which he commenced some years ago. The initiative relates to the encouragement of Aboriginal employment in private enterprise. A couple of pilot campaigns were run in New South Wales and in South Australia. As these showed very encouraging results, further programs have now been mounted in northern New South Wales and Queensland. It is hoped that the early success of these programs will be continued and that a substantial number of Aboriginal people will be taken on by employers.

The National Aboriginal Employment Development Committee is doing valuable work. I am in close touch with at least one member of that Committee. I am aware of the very valuable work which is being done by some portions of both the public and the private sector to encourage Aboriginal employment. One example is the State Energy Commission in Western Australia which has a policy of employing a minimum number of Aboriginal people. The Commission has a constant requirement, imposed by its own management, to encourage the employment of Aboriginals. We hope to see other public and private corporations following a similar line.

I understand that Question Time is not the time for a statement to be made on government policy in these matters, but I mention very quickly that Community Development Employment projects have been expanded recently. In remote communities these projects provide work for Aboriginals instead of their having to rely on the unemployment benefit. A number of communities in the Northern Territory have recently been added to the communities which have these schemes. New developments have taken place also in Queensland and Western Australia. In addition, we encourage employment through special works projects in which both Aboriginal communities and local authorities get access to funds for the employment of Aboriginals. In towns such as Tennant Creek, for example, that approach has been used very successfully not only to provide short term employment but also to lead into permanent employment with the shire by starting off in the special works project. I will make further material available to Senator Kilgariff on this important matter. The Government is giving great emphasis through the work not only of my Department but also of the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs to doing something about the very real difficulties which Aboriginals, in rural areas in particular, face with respect to employment.

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