“Indigenous
Affairs Minister Mal Brough has backed a plan to ‘showcase’ Aborigines to
tourists at five-star hotels across Australia,” The Agereported yesterday:

Tourism training experts yesterday launched a
campaign to entice Indigenous people from remote communities to jobs in swank
establishments such as the Sydney Hilton. The new recruits would be trained as
receptionists, concierges and waiters in a bid to give foreign tourists the
chance to meet Indigenous people.

Speaking at an Indigenous business conference
in Sydney yesterday, Mr Brough praised the
plan as an opportunity for Indigenous Australians to acquire skills and
qualifications in tourism and hospitality…

Bennelong
had to be shipped off to Europe to be exhibited. Now we can run our own freak shows, Mal Brough seems
to be saying. This is an
idea that’s offensive from so many angles it’s hard to know where to begin –
but let’s just tackle the economics.

How much
have we heard over the last eight weeks or so about conditions in remote
communities? It would be harder to imagine a greater contrast between their
squalor and the lobbies, lounges and restaurants of five star hotels.

Brough has
been more than happy to exploit that squalor for cheap publicity. How does this
scheme help fix it? There are few five star establishments in remote areas.

A lack of
job opportunities denies Indigenous Australians in remote communities a share
in economic wealth. It is one of the greatest disadvantages Aboriginals and
Torres Strait Islanders face. There’s a
major role for the private sector can play in fixing this. Providing tourism
and hospitality training isn’t it.

Almost a
decade ago, I was involved with launches of pilot Indigenous employment
programs with mining companies operating in remote areas. We worked with
resources firms to create permanent employment opportunities for the people who
live permanently in the regions where they operate.

Silver
service skills aren’t needed in remote communities. Trade skills are. Skills
transfer programs that give people in remote communities practical skills that
stay in their communities and increase their economic participation are needed.

Indigenous
Australians don’t need to serve tourists, but should have every opportunity to
serve their own communities.

Peter Fray

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