Cape York Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson has strongly backed businessman Andrew Forrest’s plan to create 50,000 jobs for Indigenous Australians.
Australia’s richest man Fortescue Metals boss Mr Forrest yesterday announced the plan to create 50,000 jobs, and the Federal Government has committed to providing training places for the scheme.
Mr Pearson will be part of the scheme and was at the official launch with Mr Forrest and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast yesterday.
Mr Pearson says the scheme links training with a jobs outcome and is likely to succeed because of Mr Forrest’s committment to pressure industry to get results.
“The one part of the jigsaw that I’ve not been able to answer is the jobs jigsaw,” he told Radio National’s Fran Kelly.
“I think it’s an enormous opportunity and it fits a piece of the jigsaw that’s been missing in our welfare reform drive.
“The difference from the past is that there has been big corporate drives with Indigenous employment but we’ve stopped short of guaranteeing the job.”
Mr Pearson also believes the scheme will strongly benefit the large population of unemployed Indigenous people living in cities such as Sydney, where he says entry-level jobs are easily accessible.
“There are large pockets of unemployment in places like Blacktown in Sydney,” he said.
“This scheme is about getting corporate Australia across the full range of industries – not just mining but across a full range of industries – looking at their employment workforce and saying,’Listen, if we set 1 per cent of our workforce aside for Indigenous people and we guarantee people that successfully complete courses are placed in our company, we’re just going to make a big inroad in the Aboriginal unemployment problem and therefore the poverty problem’.”
The scheme has also been backed by the Australian Industry Group, which says it will take about two years to roll out.
But a Queensland not-for-profit Indigenous employment group says the plan must get Indigenous communities on side to be most effective.
Wondai’s Silver Lining Foundation has been running practical training and work skills programs for Cherbourg residents since 2006.
Chief executive officer Mike O’Neill says they have found that both mentoring and flexible training are vital for long term employment.
“The lessons that we would offer would be to go slowly, to mentor Indigenous people,” he said.
“That’s the fundamental secret to making it work. You must have good mentors, and to involve the local community so that you’re seen to be having their blessing.”