Laughing at the plight of the unemployed indigenous people may seem like a fair game to the Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations, who is also the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, but is not fair to them. Today I asked a question about what the ACT government was doing to support the unemployed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in order to get them into the workforce, and what they were doing to reduce the barriers to entry into the workforce.
The recent Closing the Gap report showed that indigenous unemployment is almost double that of non-indigenous Canberrans, 8.4%, compared to 4.4%. This is no laughing matter, for those caught up in this plight. But, in response to my question, the Minister laughed and then joked that employment was the responsibility of the Commonwealth government. This either shows her lack of knowledge of how the economy works, or perhaps her lack of interest in the many issues impacting indigenous Canberrans.
Yes, it is the Federal government’s responsibility to measure and fund the unemployed. But it is a function of the ACT government to provide the support needed, through education and training, funding of community programs, and growing the ACT economy.
Is this a lack of awareness by the Minister? Or perhaps an inability by her to differentiate between the Commonwealth responsibilities and that of the Territory? It was good to hear that there are some programs in place, such as the CIT’s Yurauna Centre, which is there to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access employment opportunities in their chosen fields. We sincerely hope the ACT Government will continue to fund this program. We will continue to ask the questions and highlight the issues for the government – issues they seem to be ignoring, or worse, laughing at.