Key points:

  • Many federal and state government initiatives are on the table
  • These initiatives are disconnected from the reality on the ground
  • Staff in the organisations involved have a lack of understanding and compassion
  • Indigenous employment gap is still rising

There are RAP (Recognition Action Plans), IOP (Indigenous Opportunity Policy), Indigenous Business procurement exemptions, Indigenous Employment Program (IEP) funding, Supply Nation, VTECs, AEC job pledges, JSAs and the list goes on. All the best intentions are behind these federal and state government initiatives that then roll into the corporate world. Why then, with all of these initiatives and good intentions in place is the data on everything Indigenous actually getting worse, not better?

The answer is: They are largely disconnected from the realities that face Indigenous people on the ground; they have been drawn up without consultation with knowledgeable Indigenous people who have expertise in those areas; in most cases they are unenforced and they are mostly managed by Non-Indigenous people who are usually out of touch with the issues that affect the Indigenous people. Then there is the issue of ignorant staff who work within the organisations, sometimes in roles that actually manage the RAP plans. As I’ve experienced, they often act with a lack of compassion, understanding or commitment to the task of Indigenous business engagement or Indigenous employment, regardless of what the document says – which could lead to significant Closing the Gap outcomes.

Let’s look at RAPs as an example. These are usually glossy, Aboriginal art-filled, warm and fuzzy beautifully presented coffee table books. The RAPs are usually launched at exclusive shindigs attended by the obligatory politicians, business leaders, high profile Indigenous people and the like. The content of these RAPs would make any Indigenous reader feel so encouraged that the government department or corporate company is finally recognising the importance of Indigenous engagement and how they intend to implement their plan; mostly through Indigenous employment and Indigenous business procurement opportunities. Wonderful stuff to read for an Indigenous businesswoman whose job it is to secure employment contracts for the thousands of Indigenous people who want to work. These RAP plans should be making my life a whole lot easier, instead they are better used as coffee table books.

RAPs are registered with Reconciliation Australia, an independent organisation that promotes reconciliation. A great concept and one that has done a great job of raising awareness of the important social issue of reconciliation, which is crucial to the future of our country.

“What is reconciliation? Reconciliation is about building better relationships between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the benefit of all Australians. To create positive change, we need more people talking about the issues and coming up with innovative ideas and ACTIONS that make a difference.” (quote from who?)

Therefore, when the goodwill that is attached to such an initiative, Indigenous people put trust into the idea that it is a tool to create that positive change through ACTIONS, not just words.

This article, published in The Australian just yesterday, it talks about how RAPs have created 5,000 Indigenous jobs in the last year. These are great figures that are somewhat contradicting the recent 7th year edition of the Closing the Gap report, which quoted evidence of Indigenous unemployment rates rising. It would be a breach of trust to Indigenous people generally, if the data being reported to Reconciliation Australia has been embellished to meet the corporation’s agendas. I can only conclude that maybe the organisations I have had bad experiences with are not those who are reporting their data.