Interview with Fiona Sewell, ABC Far North QLD Mornings
E & OE – Proof only
FIONA SEWELL: A new farm in Bamaga, houses in Yarraba and a community hub at Mossman Gorge – projects being announced by the Federal Government. Will they create local jobs for Indigenous people? Well the Federal Government says ‘yes they will’. Jenny Macklin is the Minister responsible. She is in the Far North today. I caught up with her just a short time ago. Firstly, let’s go to the community hub at Mossman Gorge.
JENNY MACKLIN: This is really all about making sure there is a place where people in the local area – in Mossman Gorge and surrounding areas – can come together to learn about managing their money, looking for job opportunities, making sure that people are doing everything possible to give their kids the best start. So it really is about a hub for people to come to in the local area.
FIONA SEWELL: And it’s open now?
JENNY MACKLIN: It will be today. That’s what I’m going up for.
FIONA SEWELL: And just give us an idea, you know in practical sense, you know people going into the hub, what will they do? What will they come out with?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well just to use money management as a really good example, of course we are doing everything we possibly can as part of the Gateway Project to see more local Indigenous people employed and that’s been a real positive out of the Gateway Project, seeing more local people getting jobs. But of course to get those jobs they need to make sure that they’re putting their hand up for the jobs, getting the right training so that when they get the skills they need they’ll be able to step into these jobs. And then if you get the job, that you actually know how to manage your money. So you can do financial management courses, make sure that you understand how to put some money away each week to pay you bills. All of those sorts of things.
FIONA SEWELL: And how many Indigenous people are employed there?
JENNY MACKLIN: There are fifteen people currently employed at the Gateway Project and once it’s all built, we hope around 40 will be employed, so a good opportunity.
FIONA SEWELL: In what sort of areas?
JENNY MACKLIN: A range – at the moment of course it’s construction. There are some local Aboriginal people employed. I don’t know if you’ve ever done the walk through the forest but of course there is people employed to take you through and explain the history of the area. But there’ll be tourism jobs, as well as the ongoing maintenance-type jobs in the future, just to give a couple of examples.
FIONA SEWELL: Minister, when you leave here you’re heading to Yarrabah. I know you’re going to make an announcement out there that you can’t go into too much detail about yet but can you give us a …
JENNY MACKLIN: …a flavour?
FIONA SEWELL: … a sense of what you’re doing?
JENNY MACKLIN: We’re really pleased to be going to Yarrabah today. We know there is an urgent need for more housing so we’ll be talking about housing in Yarrabah today. But one of the other really positive things that we’ll be talking about today are the local employment opportunities. So making sure that local people have got the chance to build the houses. We do want to put the money in to see houses built, but we also want to make sure that we use every opportunity to see local people in jobs.
FIONA SEWELL: So local people from Yarrabah?
JENNY MACKLIN: That is exactly right.
FIONA SEWELL: So have you set a percentage that you’d like to see?
JENNY MACKLIN: We have. Across Queensland, well in fact across remote Australia, we’re requiring all of our contractors to have a twenty per cent Indigenous employment target met. In some parts of Australia I’m please to say that’s being bettered. But in Yarrabah we’re actually getting very specific, working with the local council, making sure that there are local people employed in the building of these homes. So it really is very exciting for Yarrabah.
FIONA SEWELL: No doubt we’ll hear more detail throughout the day on that. Minister you were in, was it Bamaga yesterday?
JENNY MACKLIN: Bamaga and the other NPA communities. Probably the highlight of the trip was the opening the Men’s Shed in New Mapoon, something that local people had done an enormous amount for. So it was a very emotional day for the local men. It’s a pretty basic shelter when you see the building but they have done a fantastic job of putting it together. And they’re going to have all sorts of opportunities for young men, older men, doing different activities but really providing a place where they can come together.
FIONA SEWELL: And is it the same idea in Men’s Sheds across the country where it’s about getting men to talk?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yeah, and partly that but also I think the thing I love about Men’s Sheds is they’re so different in different places. So they really do respond to the things that men in different areas want to do. So up in New Mapoon, up on the top of Australia, they’re talking about the things they want to do. They’ve already got some gardens, they’re going to be growing some vegetables out the back, they think that’ll be a good place to do some carpentry. They’ve got a lot of house building up there too so they want opportunities for their, particularly their young men, to get the skills they need to get those jobs, so they’ve got a whole lot of ideas. It’s very exciting.
FIONA SEWELL: You were talking yesterday I think about money, Community Development Employment Projects, CDEP projects to the tune of $47 million. So people working on those projects will be paid CDEP.
JENNY MACKLIN: Some of them will be, but some of them of course are doing work experience as part of their income support payments. So it varies depending on where they are. But what we were announcing yesterday, once again up in the NPA communities, is of course the specifics for them. And what they’re going to construct, and we saw the beginning of it yesterday in Bamaga, is a new farm, where they’re going to be growing vegetables. Not just for themselves but they have a very profitable tourist market up there as you would know and so they want to get the farm up and running with this money that will help provide construction of the farm…
FIONA SEWELL: …so it hasn’t started yet.
JENNY MACKLIN: …they’ve got a house there. It’s started – they’ve cleared the land and they’ve got a house sitting on blocks getting ready and they’re just about to start all the detailed work and this money will be used for that.
FIONA SEWELL: Okay, so is this new money or is this money you announced a couple of years back?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well we announced the total a couple of years back but now we’re announcing where the detailed allocations are going.
FIONA SEWELL: Speaking with Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Minister, the sea walls in the Torres Strait. I’m sure you would be aware it’s a major issue for people living in the Torres Strait Islands. The Government supported a private member’s motion in August that they needed to be upgraded. No money has been committed. Will it be?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I’ll need to get some advice from the people who are responsible for that. As you say I am very well aware of how important this issue is. So I’ll need to come back to you on the detail of where that is up to.
FIONA SEWELL: Because the concern is that the people living in those islands could very well need to be rehoused.
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, I’ve been to Saibai for example, one place that is over many years been affected by rising sea levels and the impact of the sea on what is a very low-lying island. So I certainly do understand how important these issues are. I understand the history of how settlement has been affected by the changing impact of the sea on these islands but I will need to see where the funding is up to.