Shared challenges for our shared future

TOURISM opportunities and the provision of services to the mining industry are seen by governments and many in the Aboriginal community as the best way forward for indigenous people trying to move beyond the so-called welfare mentality.

The WA Government is building on a commitment it made earlier this year to foster a new and just relationship with the State’s Aboriginal communities.

A Statement of Commitment was signed on October 10 by the Government and several major community organisations represented by ATSIC.

State Development and Small Business Minister Clive Brown this month released a booklet aimed at enhancing relationships between the business and Aboriginal communities.

“There has been a view for some time that the State Government, through the Department of Industry and Technology, and the Federal Government through ATSIC should work more closely with the Aboriginal community because both levels of government are interested in Aboriginal economic development,” Mr Brown told Business News.

“It seemed wise for both departments to work conjointly and to be pursuing policy goals that are jointly agreed than, perhaps, causing layers of confusion in the community by adopting different approaches.

“The Office of Aboriginal Economic Development (OAED, attached to Dept of Industry & Technology) is seeking to work with a range of interests to encourage business opportunities.

“Certainly in the tourism industry there is considerable interest from Australian, and particularly international, tourists in Aboriginal culture and we think that opens great opportunities for Aboriginal enterprise.”

Regional Development Minister Tom Stephens says he is keen to seek out opportunities for joint-ventures, particularly in his housing portfolio.

“My department is looking for Aboriginal people and Aboriginal enterprises that will be able to participate in a joint venture on land and housing development, and it’s just a matter of finding the right location and the right group,” he says.

“We have a variety of joint ventures with corporations in locations around Perth and in regional centers, and I’ve asked the Department of Housing and Works to find an opportunity of embarking on joint ventures in similar ways with any well-positioned Aboriginal enterprise.”

Mr Stephens says he also is keeping an eye out for connections between Aboriginal enterprise and local government.

“Aboriginal people are at a disadvantage and I think enterprise is the single most significant opportunity for turning things around,” he says.

“In the past 30 years the Aboriginal community has created for itself a middle class often associated with government jobs.

“That’s fantastic for those people, their families and their connections, but there has to be a broadening out of the process.

“We’re seeing a very significant shift in the Aboriginal community and that’s only going to accelerate.

“The challenge is to link as many people as possible to that and make sure it’s not the exclusive domain of a family dynasty.”

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