Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Launch of Indigenous Economic Development Strategy – 2011-2018

Location: Sydney

** Check against delivery **

If I can first join everyone here in acknowledging the Traditional Owners, and particularly acknowledging those elders who are with us today. At these events I think it’s important for all of us to take the time to think about the people who lived here for thousands and thousands of years before we came along, and whose land is so special to them.

It is great to be here with so many leaders from the mining industry. Thank you Peter so much for joining us, thank you Mitch. And I also want to acknowledge Melanie Stutsel because she’s done so much work with us on the development of this very important Indigenous Economic Development Strategy. To all of the MCA’s Indigenous leadership dialogue, I see so many Indigenous leaders here today and it is wonderful to see you all. I think this does really demonstrate your commitment to making sure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people get the chances that we want them to get. To get a job, to create their own wealth, to have the opportunity to improve their lives, and it really is just so fantastic to see so many of you here. And I see members of the Indigenous Land Corporation here with us as well, the Chief Executive and some Members of the Board, so great to see you here too.

I’m sorry that Mark Arbib and Chris Evans weren’t able to join us today but they send their very, very best wishes to everybody and of course join us in spirit as we launch this very important report.

I’ve just come back from a couple of days in Alice Springs, and celebrating something that feels a little it different to when you’re standing next to some people who operate in some of the biggest companies in Australia.

We were celebrating the first postal delivery in an Alice Springs town camp. Never before have people had the post delivered. And one of the loveliest events as we celebrated this postal delivery was a little two year old boy holding his mum’s letter saying, ‘there’s a motorbike’, and knowing that one day he might be a postie. Or he might, as so many of these fantastic people we’ve got with us today, work for a mining company, or run a business that has a contract for a mining company.

So what we’re all on about is making sure that we can give little kids, middle-sized kids, adults, the chance to have a better life. That’s what we’re all here to really celebrate today. All of us want to see those children grow up healthy, get a great education and get a really good job so that in the future they too, can look after their families.

One of the things we celebrated in Alice Springs is exactly that. We’ve been building a lot of houses, fixing up a lot of houses. But one of the things that I did at the end of the day on Monday, was give out certificates to people who’ve been not only building the houses but getting the skills that they need, so that in the future they can get another job. Whether it’s Certificate courses, in construction, carpentry, plumbing, all the things we understand that are important for building a house. Some have completed Certificate 1, some Certificate 2. I met one young bloke who, I made the mistake of telling him he could name his price in front of his employer, because he was a plumber, and got ticked off by the boss.

But that’s exactly what we’re on about. Saying to young people, you can name your price if you get your qualifications. And having just heard from people in many different mines around Australia, they are earning good money. As one of them said to us just now, we’re earning very good money. And good on you for doing that and of course we know that that means so much to you.

One of the things that Indigenous people are saying to us right around Australia, saying to mining companies, saying to the Government, is that they want to share in the good fortune that Australia has. They want to share in our strong economy. And we know that even though that is the case, there are far too many Indigenous young people not finishing school, far too many Indigenous people not in work, far too many people not owning their own homes, or running their businesses. And that’s what we’re on about in this Indigenous Economic Development Strategy, changing that, making sure that those people who have these aspirations have got the chance to get all those things that they don’t have at the moment.

We know that if we are to Close the Gap, to close the life expectancy gap, the employment and education gaps, then all of us have to work together and make sure that we help get Indigenous kids to stay on at school and get their Year 12, or get their apprenticeship if that’s what they want to do. To get the skills they need through school based traineeships. Whichever area they’re interested in we want them to finish it and go on from there to get a greater education.

That’s why the Government is investing in each of these areas but we know there is so much more to do. We know how important it is that Indigenous businesses have the chance to buy from Government, and that’s why we’ve developed the strategy for Government procurement, so that our dollars go further and give your businesses the chance to really give people who want to set up their own businesses a much better chance.

This Indigenous Economic Development Strategy that we’re launching today is about strengthening the foundations, and the foundations are so important. They are all about good health, affordable housing, safe communities. Without those foundations nothing else can be built on.

Investing in education. I know you all think I sound like a stuck record on education, I am, and I intend to continue to be. We can’t have children not going to school. They’re never going to learn anything if they don’t turn up. So if we get them to school, we’ve got to get them into great schools and we’ve got to get them to stay at school.

We also know that taking it on from school, the skills and jobs is also so important. The Government has a job to do here but this is really where companies also step in. Companies provide enormous opportunities, certainly in the mining industry. Giving people a real chance, sometimes with very basic skill development, sometimes with very sophisticated skill development.

Supporting Indigenous business. We do that at a Government level through Indigenous Business Australia, the Indigenous Land Corporation. But we also know that is important where it’s done with bigger businesses lending a hand.

Finally, one that I feel also very, very passionately about, building financial independence. Making sure that people learn how to manage their money, learn how to invest those big bucks, so that you can make and create that wealth for yourself and for your families. That’s where building businesses and home ownership really come into play.

There are some people here today that have really helped us lead the way. In addition to the MCA, we’ve got Michael McLeod from Message Stick. Michael has just done so many things in so many different ways to show us the way forward. With so many private sector, state and federal customers, you really are, Michael a real inspiration to so many people.

We can turn to so many different types of businesses that provide so many ways in which we can demonstrate our partnership. Whether it’s the Minerals Council doing things at the Council level, or individual mining industries doing things with the people that they rightly call their neighbours. Their land holders, their property holders, the people who hold native title on the land that they are mining. There are so many of you.

Of course, when we think about job opportunities we’re not just talking about the mining industry. It is great to be a postie, it’s great to be a miner, it’s great to be a teacher, or to work in Woollies or Coles.

Whatever it is, we want to see Aboriginal kids, Torres Strait Islander kids, get the chance to step up and take these jobs wherever they are. That’s what this Strategy is all about and whether you live here in Sydney, in the Alice Springs town camps, up in Gove, wherever you are, take the chance to really join in, in what I think is a really exciting time for Indigenous people in Australia.

A really exciting time for us all to work together to Close the Gap and meet the opportunities that are there and take them by the hand.

Thank you.