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Indigenous jobs plan launched

A chance for all … Tremain Mundine and Clive Cavanagh speak to the businessman Andrew Forrest about the jobs they would like to find reports Joel Gibson Indigenous Affairs Reporter of the Sydney Morning Herald of October 31, 2008.

YESTERDAY will go down as the last day that indigenous Australians had to worry about finding a job, the West Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest vowed yesterday.

Business leaders joined Mr Forrest and their political and indigenous counterparts at Kirribilli House to sign the most ambitious indigenous job creation agreement in Australia's history.

The Australian Employment Covenant aims to find 50,000 private sector jobs for indigenous workers and 50,000 mentors to help them integrate into workplaces.

Already, 15 companies have defied the looming recession and promised 6000 indigenous jobs, including Consolidated Media Holdings, Westrac, Crown Ltd, Santos - and Leighton Holdings, which came to the party yesterday with 1000 places.

Gone is an initial deadline of two years but the scheme has set internal targets, said Mr Forrest. He praised business leaders for their heart and leadership despite tough economic times and said the signing marked the birth of a "learn-to-earn" society rewarding effort and endeavour.

As part of its goal to halve the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous employment within a decade, the Federal Government will for the first time fund intensive, job-specific two-month training courses for workers, who will be guaranteed a job afterwards.

School students can become Covenant "P-Platers" in the meantime, and gain work experience, casual work and traineeships, "to learn that welfare is not an option".

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said it would be difficult but signalled the death of ideology in indigenous employment programs. "We are all here together as Australians. Indigenous, non-indigenous, all sides of politics, about one objective. That's how to fix this thing."

Rupert Murdoch, who was accompanied by his son Lachlan, said it was "past time" Australia addressed the issue and that the Covenant would improve educational achievement among indigenous people.

The Covenant was an act of faith, said indigenous leader Noel Pearson, that would pay dividends. "For every one job, 10 flowers will bloom in the futures of indigenous children. And for every 10 jobs, 100 flowers will bloom."

Later, in Redfern, Mr Forrest asked Clive Cavanagh and Tremain Mundine, both 16, what their dream jobs were.

Clive wanted to be a forklift driver while Tremain opted for zoologist. Mr Forrest said he could get them jobs like that.

"The thing is, I need you fellas to spread the word amongst your mates," he told them. "You're not prime examples because you're good kids and you want to work. You've got to tell those kids that are on welfare and whose parents are on welfare, that it's bullshit."

Clive said about half of his year 10 classmates would look for work after school.

"There's a lot of jobs but some of the boys don't take them. I'll tell you straight out, if it's going to be easy for them, they'll do it," he said.