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Change in remote jobs strategy could benefit the whole country

Zak Kirkup -
:

Last week the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon. Linda Burney MP, gave a speech as part of the 2024 Closing the Gaps report launch. In the speech, the Minister renewed the comprehensive commitment of the Albanese Government to try and bridge the increasing levels of inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.

Pleasingly, when it comes to the economic development for Indigenous Australians, it’s one of the few areas where the country is getting it right - and that shouldn't be a surprise. There is a very strong and demonstrable commitment from the business community to lean into giving more jobs, more training and more opportunities to our First Nation’s people which have been long denied.

However one of the callouts from the Minister's speech was a commitment to enhanced and genuine job creation in remote areas.

Remote communities face unique employment challenges, several hundred or up to over a thousand kilometres away from any town or economic centre. In a bid to help bring about some sense of employment, the Commonwealth Government runs an initiative called the Community Development Program or CDP. It covers over 1,000 communities and 75 per cent of Australia's landmass.

Although the CDP aims to provide work experience and training, it often falls short of delivering long-term sustainable employment, leading to Burney's critique that the program is "broken". Indeed, the existing model leaves many Aboriginal people as some of the best-trained but least employed individuals in the country.

The government's intention to reform the CDP is crucial for Aboriginal Australians and remote communities relying on it. Mistakes in adjusting the program could have severe repercussions for remote communities.

The task ahead is not merely to reform but to revolutionise how employment strategies are created and implemented for Indigenous Australians, particularly in remote communities. The government's initiative to overhaul the CDP presents a pivotal moment in our country's trajectory to bridge not just the tyranny of distance but an enduring economic divide.

Frankly, this ambition cannot be realised by policy changes alone. It requires sustained collaboration with a business sector which has already demonstrated a capacity for significant change.

Together, we can forge a path that not only addresses immediate employment gaps but also lays the groundwork for long-term, sustainable economic empowerment which will help benefit not just our remote communities, but Australia as a whole.

Zak Kirkup, of Yamatji heritage, is a former leader of the WA Liberal Party and is one of the largest employers of Aboriginal people in WA.

 

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