Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

First anniversary of the Qantas Reconciliation Action Plan

Location: Sydney


For 88 years, Qantas has been a pioneer in Australian aviation.

And, a leader in recognising the crucial role corporate Australia has to play, working in partnership with government and Indigenous Australians, to close the gap. And I want to say a personal thank-you for the very substantial help Qantas provided bringing members of the Stolen Generations to Canberra for the Apology.

Last year you adopted a Reconciliation Action Plan which has already achieved so much:

  • Meeting your target of 200 Indigenous employees by June this year and looking ahead to 235 by the end of the year; 300 by June 2009 and 450 by June 2010
  • Setting up a Qantas Indigenous Reference Group
  • Developing an Indigenous recruitment plan
  • Establishing a ‘buddy support’ program for new recruits
  • Introducing cross-cultural awareness training for staff
  • Showing in-flight documentaries on historical and contemporary Indigenous issues

Becoming an integral part of the national, big picture which has seen 100 organisations introduce their own Reconciliation Action Plans.

And from these action plans, 1700 job opportunities have been created for Indigenous Australians in two years.

Qantas has helped open our minds to the huge contribution corporate Australia can make to closing the gap.

In 2005, Qantas established and launched the AFL Kickstart Program in partnership with the AFL. Under this program, around 50 Indigenous boys from all over Australia come to Melbourne for a week of intensive AFL training.

Through its sponsorship of the Bangarra Dance Theatre, the Indigenous Tertiary Games and this year’s Deadlys Music and Sports Awards, Qantas demonstrates the will and commitment of corporate and non-government Australia to close the gap.

There are runs on the board but there’s an enormous amount more to do.

The four major banks, for example, are partnering with the Aboriginal employment strategy in Sydney to place hundreds of Indigenous high school students in traineeships.

The NRL, the AFL and other sports are bringing sport to Indigenous communities and at the same time creating new education pathways.

Indigenous Enterprise Partnerships is working in many communities to strengthen Indigenous leadership through successful mentoring programs and other great activities.

The Government is determined to find ways to better harness and build on this commitment.

Enlisting and supporting business to help drive change is key.

That’s why we are developing a Business Action Agenda for Closing the Gap to chart a way forward for more local partnerships for closing the gap.

The strategy will identify the five key areas that we are keen to support business action. Areas like:

  • Jobs – the basic building block for self-respect and a better standard of living
  • Education and training – essential to get people into sustainable job
  • Sports, arts, other recreational activities – those everyday community activities which have the power to transform children’s lives
  • Governance and community development – helping organisations and communities drive change
  • Economic development – sharing the benefits of business
  • Healthy living and wellbeing – supporting and strengthening people and their families

Corporate Australia is setting common goals but working to reach them in many different ways.

For example, Qantas has given its RAP its own unique stamp with its staff champions system.

Five Indigenous and five senior non-Indigenous champions working for reconciliation.

One of them, Travis Peris has been a flight attendant for 8 years.

His famous cousin Nova Peris – the first Aboriginal Australian to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games – convinced Travis that anything was possible.

Travis was a very determined 11 year old when he got the bug to fly while on board a Qantas flight. And he hasn’t looked back.

I’m told Gary Stanford is your longest serving Indigenous employee.

Gary started working for Qantas 41 years ago – 1967, a landmark year, the year of the referendum.

He’s a skilled technical officer in the Structures Engineering Group – passionate about getting young Indigenous people into engineering apprenticeships.

I’m told Gary is a great asset to the company – and has been very involved in the new Qantas Buddy Program.

It’s also a family affair because Gary’s son Ben works for Qantas too.

The benefits to individuals are financial independence and kids seeing their parents going to work.

Of course the value of Indigenous employment goes beyond individuals.

It’s central to the national economic and social interest.

Corporate Australia recognises this and wants to be part of closing the gap.

20 per cent of Business Council of Australia members are either implementing or developing RAPs, including BHP Billiton, the Commonwealth Bank, Foxtel, ANZ, National Australia Bank, Rio Tinto and of course Qantas.

And in our schools, the RAP program launched earlier this year, is already reporting higher attendance rates for Indigenous students in some schools, and improved learning outcomes.

Corporations like Qantas and ANZ are now connecting with these schools to attract trainees from schools that value and develop Indigenous students.

Making connections is central to the Australian Employment Covenant – the brainchild of Fortescue CEO Andrew Forrest which aims to get 50,000 Indigenous people into jobs and keep them there.

It’s a big, inspirational plan that depends on a three-way partnership

  • employers guaranteeing jobs for Indigenous Australians
  • the Australian Government meeting its responsibility to get them job-ready
  • Indigenous Australians taking responsibility to take up jobs and stay in them

These are the partnerships and connections essential to bring about real change.

We have set our target to halve the employment gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. We will only achieve this with companies like Qantas setting your own Indigenous employment targets and meeting them. You have shown that you are determined to bring about the changes to make this happen.

The change that all of us here are working hard to make.

Congratulations Qantas on what you have achieved already.

And the better future you are building for Indigenous Australians.