Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Indigenous jobs targets; Northern Territory election; Groote Eylandt – Julia Christensen, ABC Darwin Breakfast

Program: ABC Darwin Breakfast Program

E & OE – Proof only

Subject: Indigenous jobs targets; Northern Territory election; Groote Eylandt.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Jenny Macklin, good morning.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning Julia.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: How will that work?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well if I can use the example of how it’s worked in the housing program. We decided that we would set employment targets for the very significant building program we have here in the Territory to see new houses, rebuilds and refurbishments done. You may recall that we set a 20 per cent employment target to make sure that Aboriginal people really got the opportunity to get training, apprenticeships, get work in this big building program, and that’s really worked. We’ve got nearly 30 per cent of the workforce that’s building these new houses is Aboriginal people. So we want to use the same approach when we roll out the Stronger Futures initiatives. Ten years worth of funding we have, $3.4 billion, it’s a lot of money. We want to make sure that when we let the contracts we actually insist that the contractors show us how they’ll give Aboriginal people a chance to get a job.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: So what sort of jobs might that lead to?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well it could lead to a wide range of jobs. Yesterday in Katherine I was at the Aboriginal Health Centre, fantastic community health centre in Katherine. They have around, I think it’s 57 of their 80-odd employees are Aboriginal people. They had a real range there to meet me. Some people were family support workers, Aboriginal health workers, people doing the books, finance workers, human resource managers, you name it. The opportunity is there for Aboriginal people. And then I went to a family support service. Once again they had a man there who’s working with communities on engaging dads in looking after their kids, so there’s lots of different jobs that are available.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Alison Anderson, our Minister for Indigenous Advancement in the Territory, says that doesn’t guarantee any jobs for local Indigenous people though because the service providers can employ from anywhere in Australia, they don’t have to be local.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course the objective is to get Aboriginal people the opportunities that they want and the likelihood is that most people who will apply for these jobs, if we’re insisting that the contractors go and ensure that they meet these targets, the majority of people will be local because they’re the people who are there on the ground. And I think if you look at the housing program, it also provided the chance for people to do traineeships, start their apprenticeships, get work experience and of course, if people are on the ground they’re going to have the chance to get the job.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: We do of course have a new Government in the Northern Territory, Labor lost the election. Do you accept some of the responsibility for the revolt that saw Labor lose power here in the bush?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think one of the things that’s important in Aboriginal affairs is to recognise that there’s a huge amount to be done, and we’ve done a lot but there’s of course a lot more to do, and Aboriginal people have spoken very loudly to me and to the Northern Territory Government here that they want to see improvements. They want jobs.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: But you’ve been working on that for years now?

JENNY MACKLIN: Sure, I have.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Do you accept some responsibility?

JENNY MACKLIN: Oh I don’t accept responsibility for the political outcome in the Northern Territory. What I take responsibility for is delivering on the commitments that we’ve made. And we’ve made commitments to build a very significant number of houses, we’ve built just around 700 new houses, never been done before in the Northern Territory’s history. You would understand, your listeners would understand, the huge backlog of need in this area, the terrible overcrowding that we inherited when we came into office. We’ve put the money into building these new houses.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: But that didn’t translate into votes, did it on the election day? And Federal Labor must be concerned about what it means for Warren Snowdon in the Federal Seat of Lingiari?

JENNY MACKLIN: My primary consideration is dealing with the horrific conditions that people have been living in for a very long time in the Northern Territory. And it’s really only as a result of the Federal Government stepping in and not only delivering houses, putting extra funding in to enable around 200 additional teachers, additional police officers into communities that never had police, child protection workers. So frontline services that are traditionally the responsibility of the Territory Government, the Federal Government has stepped in and has not only made the money available over the last few years, of course we’ve now said we will make this funding available for the next ten years to give Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory certainty that there will be decent services and, as I said in my announcement yesterday, opportunities for Aboriginal people to get those jobs.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Your programs have involved alcohol restrictions in the bush. The Country Liberal for the Tiwis promised to re-introduce heavy beer on the Islands and we’ve heard that similar promises were made in other electorates. How do you feel about that?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think one of the things that’s very important in this area of alcohol abuse is to remember the message that we all get loud and clear from people on the ground. I just get it over and over again, no matter where I go, where people, men and women, say to me, ‘alcohol is killing people.’ So my objective will be to have alcohol management plans agreed on the ground with local people.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: And if they want heavy beer is that okay?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think one of the things that will be very important is to make sure that the voices of those who are often not heard, the women who are largely the subject of terrible violence that comes from alcohol abuse, to know that their voices are being heard. That we actually understand the relationship in these communities between alcohol abuse and the damage that happens to children. So, I’ll be …..

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: …So given that, if the CLP tried to introduce heavy beer into a community, will you try to stop them?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I’ll be making sure that we look at the impact of that on the most vulnerable people in those communities, and that is women and children. And what we know is the relationship between alcohol abuse and violence, and in many cases, death. So I can assure you that’s how I’ll be looking at it.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Olga Havnen, the Northern Territory Co-Ordinator General of Remote Services, has called for business centres to be established in remote communities where people can go and get proof of identity, like birth certificates. They can get their driver’s licence, deal with other Government agencies, and banking and even retail facilities, like pharmacies and so on. Do you think that’s a good idea?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think that’s worth thinking about. Obviously the local Government offices sometimes play that role and the new Government here has decided to have a big rethink about what they’re going to do with the Shires, so we’ll see what they decide to do in that regard. I think what’s also important from the report that you mentioned is the recognition that the Commonwealth’s ten year commitment is going to mean certainty for the provision of services in the Northern Territory. It’s never been done before. No Government has made a ten year commitment of $3.4 billion to make sure that families know they’ll get the family support they need, that the health services will be there, that the health checks will be able to done, teachers will be provided, police in many communities that have never had them before. So…

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: …But there was also, the report also said that there was no transparency to see whether those programs where actually having an effect?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I don’t agree with that. We publish six monthly monitoring reports that goes through all the details of who’s been employed to do the policing or the teaching or the family support, the levels of violence and abuse are monitored every six months.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Jenny Macklin, you’re off to Groote Eylandt today, what’s happening there?

JENNY MACKLIN: One of the very exciting developments on Groote Eylandt has been their Regional Partnership Agreement and all the practical things that have come out of that. One of the areas that they wanted improved was the road to Umbakumba, that’s now been completed. It’s been completed because of the cooperation, not just between Governments, but local people themselves. I think the people on Groote have really have demonstrated their leadership. There’s around 80 houses being built. There’s a real effort to see their children get to school. They know there’s a lot of work to be done in that regard and they themselves want to take charge of that issue. So I really congratulate the local leadership group for the way in which they are pursuing the issues of economic development, jobs, getting kids to school. They themselves have tackled alcohol abuse because they know how damaging it has been for their people.

JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Jenny Macklin, thanks for your time this morning.