Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Doorstop – Indigenous Economic Development Strategy, Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory

E & OE – Proof only

JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks very much everyone for joining us here today for the launch of the Indigenous Economic Development Strategy. I am very, very pleased that we were able to have this launch here in Sydney today with representatives of the Minerals Council of Australia and I thank them very much for the work that they have done and consultation with the Native Title Association. An enormous amount of work has gone into the production of this strategy. It’s all about saying that we, together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, can make a difference. To make sure that we build the strong foundations on which a child’s opportunity can be built through health and education, build the educational opportunities, the skills and training opportunities, then make sure that people get the jobs that are available here in our strong economy, and are also able to build strong financial independence so that they can both get a job and create their own businesses, get the opportunity to own their own homes.

I’m also very pleased today to be announcing the new Board of the Indigenous Land Corporation, a very important Statutory Corporation of the Commonwealth. Dr Dawn Casey will be the new Chair of the Indigenous Land Corporation. She is already the Chair of Indigenous Business Australia and we have wanted to bring these two very important Indigenous economic organisations closer together so that they can work together very effectively to make sure that we have the best opportunities possible for Indigenous Australians when it comes to economic development.

I’d like to take this opportunity to also thank Shirley McPherson, the outgoing Chair of the Indigenous Land Corporation. Shirley’s been the Chair for ten years now and done an outstanding job with the Indigenous Land Corporation and I would like to, on behalf of the Government, thank her very, very much for her dedication and her commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

JOURNALIST: As part of the strategy what new resources are going to be (inaudible) particularly education in both areas?

JENNY MACKLIN: What you see in this strategy is all the different investments that the Government is currently making, whether it’s in education through the National Partnerships that the Commonwealth has signed with each of the States and Territories for low socio-economic schools. For example, whether it’s the new money that was announced in this year’s Budget by Mark Arbib for traineeships for young people who are still at school, an issue really emphasised by the minerals industry, the importance of getting young people trained while they’re at school with a job in mind; whether it’s the money that the Commonwealth is putting into housing and giving Aboriginal people the opportunity to get work. We know in each of the areas where we’re making investments, we’re making a difference. This strategy is all about being very clear about our priorities and that’s why we’re so pleased to be launching it today.

JOURNALIST: How long will it take, what’s the level of consultation, and what does the strategy actually mean to people on the ground?

JENNY MACKLIN: There have been very extensive consultations, over a hundred different submissions by people in many, many organisations. Some businesses, many Indigenous organisations have made a contribution to this strategy over the last couple of years, so it has been a lot of work by many people and I thank all of them for their efforts. We know that this is a chance for the Government to work very closely both with Indigenous people and the private sector to make sure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people get the jobs that our strong economy is offering.

JOURNALIST: What about the future of the CDEP employment program? Is that the cornerstone of your strategy?

JENNY MACKLIN: The Community Development Employment Projects along with Job Services exists in many parts of remote Australia. We know how important both of these programs are to the training and delivery of work experience in some of the remotest communities. Both Mark Arbib and I are responsible for the conduct of the review of both of these services and that’s underway at the moment.

JOURNALIST: What’s the deadline for that?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think the consultations are coming to a close reasonably soon.

JOURNALIST: Will the communities have to sign up for land leases to get economic development (inaudible)?

JENNY MACKLIN: The whole issue of land tenure is a very important one when it comes to economic development and issues of land tenure are very, very different in different parts of Australia. The Aboriginal Lands Rights Act of course exists in the Northern Territory. There are a multitude of different land tenure arrangements in the different States and Territories. What this report makes clear, what some of the Aboriginal mining employees made clear to us when we were meeting just now, is that these issues are critical if they’re going to see economic development on their land. So we certainly will be sitting down with Native Title holders, with Land Councils, to address issues of land tenure because they have to be resolved if we’re to see greater economic development on land that’s currently communally owned.

JOURNALIST: You’ve spoken about the importance of education and training, what measures would you consider to force Indigenous people to get on to their training?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we understand just how important it is to get a great education and if you’re going to go on to get a job, to get a skill, get a trade, and of course be able to provide for your family. That’s why we’re such strong advocates for early childhood education, for making sure that we have the investments in schools, in TAFE, in vocational education, and in universities. So whatever level of education that people are aspiring to, this Federal Government and our Prime Minister is absolutely putting education at the core. I have made it very clear over the last few days that in those areas in the Northern Territory where we’ve got very, very low levels of school attendance, we do want to make sure that children are attending school every single day. And we have been working very closely with Aboriginal people, listening to them. They’re the ones that are saying to me loud and clear, please do something to make sure that we get our kids to school every day. Say to parents it’s your job to make sure that your kids get to school every single day. That’s what they’ve said loud and clear to me. They said to me, if parents aren’t doing the right thing, then you should suspend their welfare payments. So we’re working with the Northern Territory Government on how we’ll roll this out, and we’ll have more to say about this in the future.

JOURNALIST: So parents will be punished for truancy?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well already of course it’s the case in the Northern Territory that they have a system of fines for parents who don’t do the right thing and obey the law. The law says that children have to go to school every day. If you don’t go to school every day you won’t get a good education. We’ve had a trial going in the Northern Territory and in parts of Queensland on this issue for a little while now. We are working with the Northern Territory on a new approach to make sure that we integrate the Commonwealth’s capacity with the Northern Territory Government, and as I say, we’ll have more detail about that available in the not too distant future.

JOURNALIST: Would that scheme (inaudible) beyond the Indigenous communities into the non-Indigenous?

JENNY MACKLIN: It is already. So it’s already operating in the town of Katherine for example, and it’s already operating in some suburbs in Brisbane.

JOURNALIST: Going back to the Indigenous Employment Strategy, there seems to be sort of a crystallising of programs you’ve already got running. So what precisely is the contribution of the Minerals Council of Australia?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the Minerals Council of Australia, first and foremost, are fantastic employers of Aboriginal people. And I really want to acknowledge the contribution of many, many companies, many, many mining companies and their determination to make a difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. You can go to any of the far flung mines as I have done and meet as we have today, people who have great jobs in the mining industry. So that’s the first thing. The second is that the mining industry is giving people not only the chance to get a good job, they’re taking kids from school, bringing their skills up to scratch, making sure that they get training on the job. They’re supporting people who want to go out and set up their own businesses, providing contracts to get those businesses underway. You name it, there’s fantastic opportunities that are being created by the mining industry for Aboriginal people in many, many parts of the country.

JOURNALIST: To what extent does this strategy change the fact that for hundreds (inaudible) effectively, a couple of hundred, we’ve had policies which involved spending a great deal of money and not (inaudible).

JENNY MACKLIN: This economic development strategy today is all about saying we have a very, very clear focus on economic development, on making sure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people get the opportunity to participate in our strong economy. Governments have responsibilities, the private sector have responsibilities, and Aboriginal people want to work with us so that their kids get a chance to get a decent job and fill the opportunities of the future.

JOURNALIST: With respect haven’t you just launched a glossy brochure of existing policies and what’s been achieved from them?

JENNY MACKLIN: What’s achieved by this strategy is saying to Aboriginal people that we are working with them to build the opportunities for their kids, to make sure that employment and economic development is at the centre of what we do. To make sure that the Government’s investments are in economic development, in education that will give children the chance to get a decent job, to give businesses the chance to grow and prosper. To make sure that Aboriginal people are able to manage their own money, to get the financial literacy skills. If you go through the document you’ll see the very specific commitments that the Government’s making and will make a very big commitment to Aboriginal people. That’s why we have Aboriginal leaders here today who are so pleased with what’s been developed.