The year 1967 was a watershed year in Australia for the recognition of our First People, who prior to this date, had few of the rights other Australians took for granted. Over 90% of voters said “yes” to recognising Indigenous people and giving the federal Parliament the power to make laws relevant to them.
Closing the Gaps
However, equality and an end to disadvantage did not end there, and today we are still actively working towards closing the gaps between the health and living conditions of Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
Employment a Major Need
Needs range across the entire spectrum, so while much work is being done to improve access to medical services, there is a big focus on providing meaningful and sustainable employment for Indigenous people. A trade or profession with a regular income allows them to make their own choices, both for now and the future.
How to Tackle a Difficult Question
If asked to nominate the best Australian companies with Indigenous employment programs, there is no definitive answer. There are many partnerships in place now between companies and the government, as well as companies and indigenous businesses. Do we include those in this number? Do we look at the issue industry by industry, or do we take a whole-of-employment approach?
Mining Industry Leads the Way
What we do know is that 60% of mineral operations in Australia border on indigenous communities. Almost 2,000 land use agreements are in place providing not only wealth, but access to training, employment, environmental management and business development. The mining industry is the largest private sector employer of Indigenous Australians.
As a supplier to the mining and resources industries, much of our work is carried out in remote areas, and we are one of the companies with an active commitment to increasing opportunities for Indigenous employment. At Reay Services Group, we have a national approach to cultural diversity and equal opportunity.
Major Companies get Involved
We stand alongside companies such as CPB Contractors and their initiative partnering with CareerTrackers, a not-for-profit organisation creating private sector internship opportunities for Indigenous young people. The Australian Rail Industry mentions Downer EDI, BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group, John Holland Group, Rio Tinto, Transfield Services and others in their Best Practice Guide to Indigenous employment in the rail industry.
Progress is Being Made
Jawun is an Indigenous organisation that arranges secondments of corporate employees to other Indigenous organisations to share skills and offer resources. Westpac, a major banking organisation is a participant, as is the Downer Group. There are now hundreds of such initiatives operating across Australia, too many to choose favourites. The best news is that they are making huge inroads into one of the major causes of disadvantages to Indigenous people.