Key points:

  • Liberal government pledged $45 million to Generation One movement
  • VTEC contracts awarded to unqualified organisations
  • 62,000 jobs pledged are not ‘real’ jobs, yet

In 2013, then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott pledged 45 million dollars to Mr Andrew Forrest’s Generation One ‘movement’ (formerly known as AEC which was noted for its ambitious 50,000 Indigenous job ‘pledges’). The Generation One website states that it now has 62,000 job pledges. There was also the promise that if the Liberals won the looming election at that time, the Indigenous employment and training industry would be reviewed within 6 months of the election.

Abbott won the election, and not long afterwards announced that Mr Forrest would be the man leading the review. At this point it should be known that Mr Forrest’s FMG had a government funded work-ready program called VTEC based in Port Hedland. The model was simple: take local Indigenous people, give them some basic work-ready training and place them into entry-level jobs across the FMG business. This was a requirement as part of the FMG’s Land Use Agreements anyway.

The model was not 100% successful; not everyone that went through the FMG VTEC program ended up with a job. We know that the model did do a lot of good for many Aboriginal people, but it also wasn’t a model that would suit every other industry, especially those that don’t have Land Use Agreement obligations.

The Ending Disparity report was tabled and one of the main recommendations made was for the VTEC model to be rolled out across the country. In most cases JSAs were provided with VTEC contracts. The JSAs don’t have a good track record in servicing Indigenous or other jobseekers, as was documented in a recent Four Corners episode. Long before the report was tabled, those JSAs were asked to submit an expression of interest to become a VTEC. That might need a ‘please explain?’

In other cases, VTEC contracts have been awarded to organisations that have no history or experience in finding jobs for people, let alone even having access to any Indigenous people to fill the jobs. Those particular organisations had to build their VTEC units from scratch and find hundreds of jobs for Indigenous people within an 18-month contract period. I can hardly see how the VTEC model was so revolutionary that it had to be immediately rolled out in such a way.

Recently, the PMC office has identified that many of the VTECs were not tracking well, and provided a 6-month extension to enable them to meet their targets. Yet still, many of the VTEC’s are struggling for several different reasons:

  • The 62,000 job pledges are not real jobs, they are ‘pledges’, there is a cavernous difference.
  • The Generation One staff are trying to rally up new job ‘pledges’ to pass onto the struggling VTEC’s who don’t have the ability to source there own jobs. Given that there are 5,500 VTEC placements across the country and 62,000 job pledges, this might need another ‘please explain?’
  • Some of the VTECs don’t have access to Indigenous jobseekers
  • The level of investment being put into the candidates is very low due to the nature of the back-ended contracts. No payments are provided to the VTECs until the jobseeker has been in employment for 6 months. Therefore, little to no real training is being provided to the jobseekers to prepare for their jobs.
  • The original objectives of Mr Forrest’s VTEC model have been manipulated to minimise the financial risks whilst maximising their likelihood of the incentive payment by some of the VTECs. This has resulted in the people who were meant to get the jobs being overlooked. Instead, candidates who didn’t need any or as much training in order to fill the jobs and would be more of a certainty for the 6 month incentive payments, were chosen.

The focus on the individuals that most need the help seems to have been forgotten about.

We should also be asking Generation One what the $45 million is being spent on. Their website does not disclose who is on their board of directors, and there is no public annual reporting. Who has oversight of this organisation and the tax payers’ millions? Maybe instead of a ‘movement’ we should ask why those funds are not being directed to real programs and Indigenous organisations that have the proven outcomes. Some might say I have sour grapes about not being given a VTEC contract; of course I’m disappointed about that, especially when I have over 4,000 Indigenous people on my books who are waiting for jobs. However, my main concern is the employment outcomes for Indigenous people.

I disclose Ochre has a contract with FMG for labour hire. I personally admire Mr Forrest greatly for his entrepreneurial spirit, his advocacy about Indigenous issues and I genuinely believe he is legitimate in his concerns in the Indigenous space. FMG is a company that has a strong track record of engaging with Indigenous businesses in a genuine way. However, I don’t think that should prevent me from discussing the continued manipulation of Indigenous employment programs that tax payers are paying for, and are expecting results from. When the results aren’t delivered, the Indigenous people are blamed for their laziness and then put on basic cards…that’s a whole different article.