Key points:

  • This industry requires a thick skin
  • Business relationships are key
  • Understanding of the real problems is needed
  • Doing things differently gets the job done

Some of you may have noticed that recently I have announced myself as the leading expert on Indigenous employment in the country. Some might say it’s a big call but I say it’s probably the reality.

After nearly 6 years at the coalface of securing contracts in the boardrooms of many different companies, many of those ASX listed, then finding the Indigenous people to fill the jobs in the contracts, it has been an amazing learning experience. In hindsight, one that I may not have ventured into at the beginning if I knew the amount of challenges that I’d have to overcome. This is one game where you need a thick skin and resilience like no other, and of course a passion so strong that no challenge can stand in your way. You also need to be genuine; being genuine will carry you through those countless meetings and challenges and help form long-lasting business relationships with other genuine and likeminded people.

I was the first person in Australia to start an Indigenous labour hire company, with no funding or grants or any capital for that matter, just the naïve desire to fill the gap in the market that I could see from a mile away. That naïve want resulted in a turnover of $3 million in the first 18 months of operation. At that stage I was on a steep learning curve, a period that no university degree could have prepared me for. Since those first 18 months, my brand Ochre has gone from simply an Indigenous labour hire company, and expanded into a private Registered Training Organisation. The only RTO license to be owned by an Indigenous woman in WA, in fact. Ochre is now winning considerable opportunities on a national level, something I don’t take for granted, but instead will be forever grateful for.

I don’t mind saying that I take pride in being the first person to do a few different things; I’m the type of person who sees something and just makes it happen, an essential quality to have in business. The RTO side of the business specialises in the pre-employment training and development of Indigenous people, based on what industries expects of employees.

Since inception, Ochre has now placed over 700 (and counting)Indigenous people into employment, all without the aid of government funding. I personally think this fact speaks volumes about why I am proclaiming to be the expert in this field.

I understand what industry and employers expect and I can translate those expectations to the people we train or employ. In essence, I have the ability to walk in both worlds, find out what the mainstream world wants, then go to the other world and help them across the bridge, to unite both sides. Without wanting to sound conceited, I know not many people have this ability.

I decided to take this title only recently, when it dawned on me that I actually know more about this subject, (including the challenges, the loopholes, the policies, the detail, the engagement obligations, the targets, the RAP plans, the disconnection, the failures, the solutions, the rhetoric) ,whilst also having an in-depth debate with a private government tender writer. One thing I can’t do is write tenders, they drain the life out of me. I put my feelers out for someone to do the job for me; I got a call from an ex-government employee who used to sit on the evaluation panels to assess tender bids.

The tender we were talking about was the recently closed Transition to Work tender, which is to prepare early school leavers (ESLs) for the working world. Thankfully, the government has finally acknowledged that the ESLs have been failed by the JSA system, those who follow my posts might recall that I wrote an article about this very subject earlier this year and as such was very happy to see that this cohort will now be serviced outside of the JSA system. Anyway, the quote to have the tender written for me was anywhere up to $30,000 depending on a few factors. During this conversation, I educated this person about details of the tender and how it was going to be another failed experiment, and at best a band aid solution to a huge problem facing the future of this country. I quoted data adlib, details of pre-employment programs, needs of industry, Indigenous barriers to work etc etc etc…by the end of the call he asked me if I ever thought about becoming a politician because of the amount of detail I knew off the top of my head and the passion he could hear in my voice. He also said I should be sitting on the consultancy committees that advise the tender writers about what to include in the tenders .

I told him thatI don’t want to be a politician, and I ended up writing the tender myself. In the meantime, I’ll just take the title as the leading expert in the country on Indigenous employment and hopefully those people such as policy makers, report and tender writers and the like will soon be coming and consulting with people like me;, the people at the coalface, with skin in the game and the knowledge they need. Come and ask us, not academics or committees who only have the same rhetoric, text book phrases or conservative views to offer. These views are responsible for the ongoing wastage of tax payers’ money on unworkable models. If you want results, go to the people who have proven outcomes.