18/11/2010 - 00:00

Carrot and stick approach to indigenous jobs

18/11/2010 - 00:00

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INDIGENOUS employment remains a big issue in Western Australia, with development in regions with significant Aboriginal populations prompting many communities to use native title agreements to create jobs.

Carrot and stick approach to indigenous jobs

INDIGENOUS employment remains a big issue in Western Australia, with development in regions with significant Aboriginal populations prompting many communities to use native title agreements to create jobs.

Never far from the surface in minerals development, indigenous jobs was put on the national agenda in 2008 by Andrew Forrest who, with then prime minister Kevin Rudd, launched the Australian Employment Covenant, an ambitious bid to create 50,000 indigenous jobs within two years.

Earlier this month, a report into the progress of the AEC by Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University estimated that around 2,800 indigenous people have been placed into AEC jobs to date.

Big companies such as Wesfarmers and Rio Tinto have acknowledged the role of employment in dealing with indigenous inequality.

They are among a host of major WA employers addressing this issue, often without the fanfare that Mr Forrest attracts.

The desire to improve employment opportunities for indigenous people has been as a result of both carrots and sticks. Governments and local native titleholders have pushed harder for employment opportunities from mining companies.

But the miners have also seen Aboriginal people as a pool of domestic labour in a region beset with human resources challenges.

Specialised training schemes have helped Aboriginal people become work ready and many companies are now training their staff in cultural awareness to help provide a more flexible and understanding workplace for their new recruits.

A quarter of employees at Rio Tinto’s Argyle diamond mine are indigenous, up from just 5 per cent in 2000, the result of a series of recruitment and training programs reflecting a company goal that was part of its native title agreement with the local Miriwung, Gidja, Malgnin and Woolah peoples.

“Argyle believes that the biggest single impact it can make is providing an indigenous person with a job,” the diamond miner said in its 2009 Sustainability report.

Economic opportunities have also led traditional companies to establish specialist indigenous offshoots to conduct joint venture operations on mine sites with local community organisations.

Big mining contractor Macmahon formed its own subsidiary company in 2008 called Doorn-Djil Yoordaning, which first operated at Argyle. DDY said it guaranteed over 50 per cent indigenous participation in any contract it won.

Another example is Ngarda Civil and Mining, a joint venture between the Ngarda Ngarli Yarndu Foundation, Indigenous Business Australia (each with 25 per cent equity), and Leighton Contractors, which holds the remaining 50 per cent.

Ngarda also has around 50 per cent indigenous employment in its workforce of 300.

 

 

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