30/11/2007 - 09:41

Rio boosts indigenous jobs

30/11/2007 - 09:41


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Hundreds of new jobs will be created for indigenous Australians in the Pilbara under a landmark agreement between the State Government and Rio Tinto Iron Ore.

Rio boosts indigenous jobs

Hundreds of new jobs will be created for indigenous Australians in the Pilbara under a landmark agreement between the State Government and Rio Tinto Iron Ore.

State Development Minister Eric Ripper, who will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with RTIO chief executive Sam Walsh next month, said the agreement could create jobs for up to 300 indigenous workers.

The agreement comes as 170 WA business representatives including Don Voelte from Woodside, Ian Ashby from BHP, Andrew Forrest from Fortescue Metals Group and Richard Goyder from Wesfarmers attend a forum in Perth today to find ways of engaging more indigenous Western Australians in employment.

"This agreement commits both parties to a range of employment and enterprise initiatives," Mr Ripper said.

"It will significantly strengthen future training, business and job opportunities for the local indigenous community.

"Mining operations are expanding in the Pilbara and we need to ensure indigenous people and traditional owners benefit from this development.

"Through a joint approach by RTIO, indigenous people in the Pilbara and the State Government, we will create as many jobs as possible."

The Minister said the agreement would focus on ensuring the right education, training and employment pathways were in place so that indigenous people had the necessary skills required in the mining and services industries.

The agreement also commits to establishing contracting opportunities between RTIO and indigenous-owned businesses, as well as enabling an indigenous-owned mine rehabilitation enterprise that acknowledges the traditional owners' strong interest in the remediation of their land as mine closures occur.

Mr Walsh described the agreement as a milestone in indigenous involvement in the resources boom, which was largely being driven by the iron ore industry in the Pilbara.

"It is vital that the traditional owners and indigenous people of the Pilbara not only participate in and enjoy the benefits of this extraordinary activity, but that they become better equipped to control their destiny long after mining has ceased," Mr Walsh said.

"It is clear we need more than a 'business as usual' approach, and that no one company or organisation alone can achieve what is necessary. If together we can deliver greater and sustainable indigenous participation (individual, family and community) in the Pilbara economy, we will have achieved a great deal.

"By securing ongoing employment with RTIO, its contractors, or other organisations, as well as through greater retention of young people in schools, through to university or other training, they will have the choices denied to previous generations."

The agreement will identify up to 300 new indigenous workers from the Pilbara and elsewhere to join RTIO's operations in a range of occupations by 2010. RTIO's operations already use more than 500 indigenous workers across WA, including 70 currently undergoing training or apprenticeship programs.

Rio Tinto and the Department of Industry Resources will collaborate on pre-employment and job-based training programs to ensure recruits are job-ready and properly supported once they start.

Mr Ripper said the department had successfully piloted indigenous pre-employment training programs for the resources sector during the past 12 months in partnership with TAFE and private training providers.

The MOU builds upon the Eastern Guruma Indigenous Land Use Agreement.

According to official figures, indigenous unemployment remains at 14.3 per cent in WA but the government believes the real number is much higher.

The government has recently committed almost $10million for the Indigenous Trade Training Package, which includes funding for job and training readiness support, mentoring and cross-cultural training in the workplace.

A total of $2million has also been committed for the provision of four mobile indigenous trades training units to service indigenous communities in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Central West and Goldfields regions.

An additional $3million will be spent on upgrading a range of TAFEWA infrastructure and equipment.

This includes $2.4million to improve facilities at the Pilbara TAFE Karratha campus and for new buildings at the Broome and Kununurra campuses.



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