Job Futures 2013 National Conference

 In News
  • Good afternoon and many thanks to Job Futures Chair Bob Sendt, for his very warm introduction, and to DEEWR Deputy Secretary Sandra Parker for her presentation.
  • I wish to start today by acknowledging the traditional owners of this country we are meeting on here today, the Kaurna nation who have cared for this place for countless centuries and I want to pay my respects to the Kaurna Elders, past and present.
  • I would like to thanks Kaurna Elder Uncle Lewis ‘Yerloburka’ O’Brien for his very moving welcome to country
  • I also want to acknowledge members of the Job Futures Network who are today and I particularly want to say a big hello to all Job Future members who work so hard to secure employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and provide the sort of employment and training opportunities that should be the birth right of all Australians.
  • I grew up in the North Queensland town of Mackay in a household of hard working employed adults imbued not only with a strong work ethic but with a strong sense of entrepreneurship. However, I knew it was a struggle for many of my Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander neighbours to find work.
  • I also knew that back in those days only certain jobs were considered appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those jobs weren’t in banks, legal firms, government agencies, or shops; in fact office work of any type was considered unsuitable for my people. We worked on the railways, in the sugar cane fields, on the fishing boats and in the cattle industry.
  • Today Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still suffer from unemployment rates that are nearly four times the national average but I stand here before you myself, educated, confident and the CEO of a national organisation.
  • I am living testament to the fact that things have changed and are continuing to change.
  • In Mackay today, in common with country towns across Australia, you will find Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander bank tellers, financial advisers, check-out operators, post office workers, shop keepers. We have broken out of past restrictions on what constitutes suitable employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people.
  • Many of these jobs, 18,972 of them in fact, have been driven by Reconciliation Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan program in which corporates, government agencies and not-for-profits turn their good intentions into real actions. A RAP is a business plan that uses a holistic approach to create meaningful relationships and sustainable opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
  • I want to talk to you today on why, in our RAP program, we speak of the creation of respect relationships as a prerequisite for sustainable opportunities including employment.
  • I want to talk to you about the importance of not just creating employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers but of creating the sort of cultural change in Australian workplaces that will allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to prosper and grow in confidence and capacity in workplaces that are safe and supportive.
  • Reconciliation Australia’s approach is based on three premises; relationships, respect and opportunities and these three premises inform the development of all Reconciliation Action Plans or RAPs as we call them.
  • RAPs are about building respect, creating relationships and grasping opportunities to support practical benefits for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including significant employment and economic opportunities.
  • Through the sorts of commitments made by nearly 400 of our RAP Partners, Reconciliation Australia and these partners are facilitating the creation of many thousands of jobs, in industries that are not historically employers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers.
  • More than just creating job opportunities, though, RAPs help develop a workplace culture that is supportive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers thereby allowing RAP organisations to keep their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.
  • Job Futures wouldn’t place a worker who uses a wheelchair into a workplace without wheelchair access; a workplace where that worker will clearly not flourish and, in fact where that worker’s self-confidence may well be diminished.
  • Likewise, placing an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person into a job where the workplace culture is antagonistic or hostile is a recipe for failure.
  • We deliberately place the building of respect and the creation of relationships before the making of opportunities because we firmly believe that the first two are essential foundations for sustainable opportunities.
  • Without respectful relationships the opportunities that come from RAPs, such as real jobs, are often difficult to sustain in the long term.
  • None of us are interested in flash-in-the-pan outcomes that may generate positive headlines for a day or so but will ultimately have little impact on our long-term national imperatives of reconciliation and closing the gap.
  • The building of trusting, respectful relationships takes time and the sort of innovation that is demonstrated in so many of our RAPs.
  • The sort of innovation that will support the creation of a safe workplace culture by fostering the pride and confidence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander workers, and by increasing the level of trust and goodwill between them and other employees.
  • These are just some of the necessary innovations which will lay the foundation for genuine and mutually beneficial partnerships in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are heard and respected.
  • We know this is true because RA has only recently published research, which demonstrates that our RAP program is having a profound impact on building positive relationships between Australia’s First Peoples and other Australians, and consequently aiding efforts to close the disparity gap, including the employment gap.
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