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Northern Territory to double Aboriginal public servants

Adam Giles
Adam Giles

The Northern Territory government wants to double the number of indigenous public servants by 2020, Chief Minister Adam Giles announced on Monday.

It adds to existing Aboriginal employment requirements on all government infrastructure contracts of about half a million dollars which has seen the number of Aboriginal people employed on government construction contracts jump from 40 to 576.

The target is part of a broader government plan to improve the economic situation of the territory’s Aboriginal residents, who comprise 30% of the population.

“Some 80% of the Aboriginal population lives in remote or very remote communities, with many of these areas having little or no economic activity,” said Giles, who is also Indigenous Affairs Minister.

“Our Aboriginal Affairs Strategy is focused on working in partnership with Aboriginal people to build sustainable regional economies and create the economic independence so many of us take for granted.

“We’ve set a number of ambitious employment targets and policies …”

“We’ve set a number of ambitious employment targets and policies including doubling public sector indigenous employment from 1800 to 3600 employees by 2020, and initiating Aboriginal employment requirements for all government infrastructure contracts above $500,000.”

In addition, the government is introducing a new remote community contracting policy that requires 70% of all contracts for civil and construction projects under $5 million in remote Aboriginal communities go to local Aboriginal businesses by 2017. A monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework will be finalised by mid-March and that will highlight the government’s progress in meeting the targets set out in the Aboriginal Affairs Strategy.

Giles congratulated the work of public sector agencies in increasing indigenous representation in the workforce, with the number of Aboriginal public servants having risen from 8% to 9.5% within six months.

Through the Department of Infrastructure’s requirements for Aboriginal employment on major government contracts, known as the Indigenous Employment Provisional Sum initiative, 576 indigenous people have been employed on government construction contracts since October 2014. Prior to this initiative, there were just 40.

The government also wants health centres to be controlled by local communities. Forty per cent are already under local control, with the aim to make that 100% over time.

Giles eliminated the Indigenous Affairs portfolio when he came to office three years ago, but recreated it last year with himself at the helm.

There are anecdotes that a subsidy for companies that hire indigenous workers has led to some inflating the numbers, and that unskilled workers have been hired despite being unable to do certain jobs, AAP reports. Giles said any company caught doing this would be blacklisted from receiving government contracts.

Author Bio

David Donaldson

David Donaldson is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Melbourne. He's previously written for The Guardian and Crikey and holds a masters in international relations.