Business School Topics
Government programs should focus first on supporting education and Indigenous business rather than on welfare support, delegates at the Indigenous Business, Enterprise and Corporations Conference have been told.
Speaking at The University of Western Australia, Josephine Cashman, a member of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, argued that providing ‘work for the dole’ schemes wasn’t enough to engage Indigenous employees.
“Welfare has created a void in which Indigenous Australians have been largely prevented from pursuing wealth creation opportunities,” Ms Cashman said.
“The Community Development Programme [which requires remote job seekers to work 25 hours per week] is just for the purpose of getting people out of bed. But if you don’t realise why you’re getting out of bed, why would you do it?”
The University of Melbourne’s Professor Marcia Langton, who alongside Cashman contributed to KPMG’s Igniting the Indigenous Economy report, emphasised the importance of education.
“For Indigenous Australians who attain a high level of education, we know the employment gap vanishes. Education is the key to Indigenous employment and must be invested in strongly, including through a needs-based school funding model, internships and other strategies,” Professor Langton told delegates.
Professor Langton highlighted mining magnate Andrew Forrest’s model of training, in which FMG set up a partnership with a local TAFE, training people for guaranteed jobs, as best practice.
“You’ve got to stop the training for training’s sake and you have to train someone directly for a job that exists and they have to go straight into that job,” Professor Langton said.
Professor Langton also dispelled the idea that Indigenous cultures were incompatible with capitalism. Instead, she said, many of the Indigenous families who went fishing and hunting were the ones who worked and could afford four wheel drives.
“Working into the corporate sector isn’t going to turn you into a devil with green ears,” she said.
“Whereas one was abused for saying these things a few years ago, it’s now permissible to say supporting entrepreneurialism, financial literacy and better educational attainment among Australia’s First People is better than passive welfare.
“The federal government should build on the success of its Indigenous Procurement Policy by insisting that state and territory governments reach Indigenous employment and procurement parity targets in all projects funded by federal infrastructure grants.”
The Indigenous Business, Corporations and Enterprise Conference is being held at the UWA Business School on Thursday 1 and Friday 2 December. The conference is being hosted by the Centre for Social Impact UWA under the direction of Professor Paul Flatau, and the UWA School of Indigenous Studies under the direction of Professor Jill Milroy.
Ainslie Gatt (Centre for Social Impact UWA) (+61 4) 31 967 069