Policies Fail to Make Dent in Aboriginal Joblessness

Tim Colebatch, Sydney Morning Herald, July 27, 2012

Aboriginal employment rates have slumped in the past five years, despite unprecedented efforts by the public and private sectors to increase indigenous workforce participation.

The Bureau of Statistics estimates that just 46.4 per cent of adult Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders had a job last year. That was a slight rise from 45.6 per cent in 2010 but well below the peak of 50.4 per cent in 2006.

The figures suggest that despite federal government intervention, numerous programs and private sector initiatives, indigenous participation in the workforce since 2006 has shrunk, not grown.

On these figures, for every 100 people added to the adult Aboriginal population in the past five years, only 22 had a job, while 78 were unemployed or outside the workforce.


Researchers have challenged the bureau’s figures, which are complicated by the end of the Community Development Employment Program in remote communities. The program was essentially a work for the dole program, but the bureau counted those working on it as employed.

Australian National University economists Matthew Gray and Boyd Hunter have estimated that when CDEP participants are excluded, the bureau figures show that indigenous employment in non-CDEP jobs has been rising since 2006, especially among women.

But the bureau figures show a decline in employment rates among indigenous people in every state, every age group, and every type of location: big cities, regional areas and remote communities alike.

Even comparing three-year averages, the trends are the same. They suggest that indigenous workers, like other less skilled workers, have been the victims of the rise in unemployment and slowdown in jobs growth in Australia since the financial crisis began in 2008.

The Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine, the chief executive of GenerationOne, said the figures showed that existing policies were off track and should refocus on giving indigenous Australians clear pathways to jobs.

“I’m not surprised, to be honest,” he said. “This is why GenerationOne has been campaigning to end funding of training courses unless there’s a guaranteed job at the end of them.

“We’ve got Aborigines out there with more certificates than a Harvard law professor but they don’t have jobs. You’ve got to get people job ready first.

“The GenOne approach is to deal first with their lifestyle issues, health issues, family issues and their education issues, literacy and numeracy—then give them training with a promise of a job at the end.”

Mr Mundine said GenerationOne, a private sector non-profit group founded by the mining billionaire Andrew Forrest, had put 11,000 indigenous people into jobs and had pledges of 62,000 jobs from 330 companies.

“We’re dealing with people who can’t read and write, can’t do maths,” he said. “They’re not job ready. Quite frankly, a lot of money is being spent, for very little outcome.

“We could resolve the employment problem in a generation but to do that, governments have to focus on the real issues.”

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  • Marcus Trajanus

    Just imagine if we had found living Australopithecus afarensis or Homo erectus populations during our age of discovery, today we would be trying to get them to perform in school at the level of White Homo sapiens, putting them in suits and making them join the workforce, etc. Leave the Aboriginals alone, they are a Stone Age people who can’t function in a modern society at any level. They should not be “employed” at anything other than hunting and gathering.

  • Why would they?  Abos are so dumb, one of the few groups of people on Earth who failed to make the link between human sexuality and female pregnancy on their own, and even to this day, they sleep in dry river beds not realizing that they sometimes fill with water, that they’re unemployable.

  • Marcus Trajanus

     “The Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine,” I knew he would be part White. Are there any full-blooded “Aboriginal leaders”.

  •  “We could resolve the employment problem in a generation but to do that, governments have to focus on the real issues.”

    The real issue is that Aborigines are biologically unsuitable for civilization.

    This is like trying to teach a pig to sing, it’s a waste of time and annoys the pig.

  • JohnEngelman

    For the Australian Aborigines I feel a concern I do not feel for American blacks. American blacks are better off than African blacks. It cannot be said that Australian Aborigines have benefited from the white settlement of Australia.
    As many Australian Aborigines as possible should be enabled to live the way their ancestors lived, hunting wild animals with stone tipped spears, and gathering wild plants.  
    Aborigines fascinate me. By studying them, and especially by studying them in their natural habitat, we can learn about how our own ancestors lived over ten thousand years ago, and what they were like. The study will enable us to understand ourselves better, especially our human nature, and the kinds of foods that benefit us. 
    It takes at least a thousand years for a racial population to adjust biologically to agriculture, and at least another thousand years for it to adjust to urban civilization. The German tribesmen described two thousand years ago by Julius Caesar and Tacitus had iron age technology. The political unit was the tribe. The economy combined primitive agriculture with hunting. 
    In short, they were at the same level as the Bantus about two hundred years ago. 1,100 years ago the Vikings terrorized Europe. Now those of Germanic and Scandinavian ancestry have on the average low crime rates and high IQs. 

    • GM (Australia)

      This is an interesting comment. Have you ever been to Australia to see Aboriginals? Many do live in traditional tribal areas, in fact large parts of Australia are in Aboriginal ownership. For the most part however traditional life has been compromised by contact with Europeans, all Aboriginals have access to welfare, free education and medical services but live in sub-3rd world conditions with crime, unemployment,  filth, alcoholism, diabetes, petrol sniffing and prostitution and low life expectancy. Yes it it still amazes me how the aboriginal race was able to exist in what must be the worlds harshest environment. From what I understand it was a miserable existence with very low life expectancy. Tribal warfare, child brides, fear and superstition were a normal part of this existence., it certainly was not a blissful existence in harmony with nature. But yes, they could survive in a land where we would perish within days.

      Do you suggest that Aboriginals should be left in the large part of Australia that they do own and be left to themselves? (As in “Brave New World”)

  • I think the ones that “have more certificates than a Harvard law professor” will be able to find work with assistance. Before they placing these people in jobs, they need to be taught remedial math and English to get them ready for the workforce. 

  • newscomments70

    GM, on occasion, I make race realist comments on Australian articles…yahoo Australia, etc. My race realist comments on U.S. media receive an overwhelming thumbs up. In Australia, those comments mostly get a thumbs down. I also have many white liberals replying to me, telling me what an awful person I am. I hope this is just a coincidence. Are Australians less race realist than Americans and some British?

  • newscomments70

    Thanks for your reply. When I lived in Australia, I noticed that the men were often race realist. Women varied, but many were outspoken liberals. Much of the hate mail I receive comes from Australian women. Like I said, that could be a variance / coincidence.

  • JohnEngelman

    Aborigines are descended from the modern humans who evolved in Africa 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. They have spear throwers, and are at about the level of the Cro Magnons who entered Europe perhaps 35,000 years ago and who are the ancestors of Europeans.