Monday, August 04, 2008

Andrew Forrest's 50,000 indigenous jobs

The campaign by Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest to create 50,000 new indigenous jobs is already attracting the nay sayers. I have the opposite view.

The first distinctive feature of Mr Forrest's proposal is that all those who undergo required training should be guaranteed an initial job by industry. The second distinctive feature is that the proposal is not driven just by remote area Northern Territory indigenous problems, but will be open to all indigenous people no matter where they live.

I suspect that Mr Forrest will get his job offers. The bigger problems are likely to be the capacity of our sometimes creaky training system to deliver on one side, the ability to find 50,000 indigenous people willing and able to participate on the other.

I noticed the media all zero in on the number itself. How, they ask, will you measure success? This is again the obsession with quantification that has damaged so much policy. By implication, if only 10,000 jobs are created, the plan will fail. What rubbish.

The 50,000 target is an aspiration, a big number to set a vision. It would be wonderful if we got to 50,000. But if even 10,000 jobs were created, I would say well done.


Neil (Ninglun) had a follow up post on this matter that includes some useful links to further information.


Stephen said...

Frankly, given the state of some of the area, even 100 jobs would be good. 10,000 would make a very substantial difference to the areas.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Stephen. You well captured my point.

Anonymous said...

I think the idea may have some merit, but it is still based in a colonial philosophy that aims to train and teach aboriginal peoples a different way of life. To some extent it is another assimilation policy aimed at acculturating the aboriginal people to the point where they will no longer have to be dealt with as a sovereign people.

Jim Belshaw said...

I can see where you are coming from APR, but Australia's indigenous peoples were never a sovereign people - singular - in the sense that you appear to be using the word. The very idea of "the Australian Aborigines" is a European construct.

At a macro level, I have tried to argue on this blog that current approaches have failed in part because we fail to recognise that diversity.

At micro level, I have been concerned that basic information about individual language groups - I use this term to cover not just languages but the culture and history associated with individual peoples - is simply not available. So to a degree neither Aborigines nor those interested in the broader community can find out about present and past at local and regional levels.

Forrest's approach has the advantage that it does try to address one aspect of indigenous disadvantage - lack of jobs. One side-effect may be, as you imply, a further break down in specific communities in specific areas as people leave.

However, this is not just an indigenous problem, but also a subset of another broader problem, population and economic decline in parts of country Australia. This feeds into indigenous difficulties because it reduces the broader pool of jobs and of services in specific areas.