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Oct 29, 2010

Generation gap over Twiggy’s indigenous jobs campaign

Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest's GenerationOne movement is a "pernicious smokescreen" which will not further the rights of Aboriginal people, says an anti-NT intervention group opposed to the campaign.

Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest’s GenerationOne movement is a “pernicious smokescreen” which won’t further the rights of Aboriginal people, say indigenous rights activists opposed to the campaign.

Supported by corporate heavyweights Kerry Stokes, James Packer, The Lowy family and Lindsay Fox, GenerationOne aims to “end the disparity between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians”. It’s linked to Forrest’s Australian Employment Covenant which is seeking to create 50,000 jobs for Aboriginal people by next year. The campaign launched its television advertising campaign on Sunday evening to an estimated audience of six million.

Noted indigenous rights campaigner Robbie Thorpe will speak at a rally in Melbourne today as part of a national day of protest against the federal government’s Northern Territory intervention policy. He says there are more important matters than Forrest’s campaign that need to be addressed.

“We need our fundamental human rights recognised instead of this working for the man sh-t,” Thorpe told Crikey. “[Forrest] is raping the land for billions of dollars, where’s he been previously?”

Sharon Firebrace, spokeperson for the Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective, agrees. GenerationOne has been a “failure in the past” and it’s time for Aboriginal people to start speaking out on the issue, she says.

“Jobs for Aboriginal people will be delivered through fighting against the interests of the people like Andrew Forrest and challenging this government,” Firebrace told Crikey.”The launch of this campaign, with the support of Adam Bandt, Aboriginal elders, and unions, is a challenge to business and this government.”

According to the campaign website, GenerationOne aims to promote organisations that are “doing good work” in the areas of education, training, mentoring and employment.

The Australian Employment Covenant, also set up by Forrest, encourages employers to pledge jobs for indigenous people by registering on a website. Currently, the AEC website boasts it represent 170 employers in more than 15 industry sectors.

Freshly-elected MP Adam Bandt will also speak at the event in Melbourne. He says that while GenerationOne may not be the silver bullet that solves indigenous disadvantage, it remains a worthwhile campaign.

“We support the motives and intention of the GenerationOne campaign — and commend any campaign which draws attention to the issue of closing the gap,” he told Crikey. “It’s important to make sure that measures to reduce the gap tackle the real underlying cause of disadvantage.”

But according to Firebrace, the GenerationOne website fails to mention land rights, dispossession, racism and the “ongoing genocide that lies at the heart of Aboriginal disadvantage”.

“These issues need to be discussed seriously, well before Aboriginal people commit to Fortescue’s ‘brave new world’ solution,” she said. “We need to have Aboriginal people discussing this and the implications of it.”

Furthermore, Firebrace says the NT intervention, introduced by the Howard government in 2007 in response to the Little Children are Sacred report, has failed to deliver jobs for Aboriginal communities.

The group is angry over cuts to the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP), which they say has led to the loss of thousands of jobs, and the implementation of a quarantine on Centrelink payments in some indigenous communities. Last week workers at the small townships of Kalkaringi and Dagaragu in the Victoria River district of the Northern Territory went on strike over pay and conditions, claiming the federal government had not provided enough jobs to replace cuts to the CDEP.

Bandt told Crikey the Greens will seek reform of the intervention, in particular the full reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act: “Senator Rachel Siewert has introduced into the Senate the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Restoration of Racial Discrimination Act) Bill 2010 and we hope to progress that through the parliament.”

Firebrace says the creation of jobs and employment is not the be all and end all for Aboriginal people: “It is not the answer and the solution for Aboriginal people in remote communities. Andrew Forrest’s GenerationOne project has been a failure in the past. And it will continue to be the pernicious smokescreen it was set out to be.”

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64 thoughts on “Generation gap over Twiggy’s indigenous jobs campaign

  1. Dajopa

    “Jobs for Aboriginal people will be delivered through fighting against the interests of the people like Andrew Forrest and challenging this government” – How? where’s the evidence? what is the alternate plan? Forrest doesn’t have to do this. He could just ingnore indigenous people and carry on regardless. I don’t understand how tearing this down will achieve anything. The people quoted seem more intent on venting their anger than helping anyone. The reason the convenant failed the first time was that it was devised in boom times, right before the GFC. Following that it would have been hard to create that amount of jobs anywhere, let alone in mining. CDEP was just welfare in disguise and it was a Labor government that decided it best that real jobs were of greater benefit. Then again what would they know, it’s the Brunswick St crowd that are really clued into life in the NT.

  2. Awesome Pete

    The problem with campaigns to “help” Indigenous Australians is that they assume mainstream Australian society is “right” and the “poor” Indigenous Australians have to be “helped” so they too can live the empty materialistic lives that the average Australian leads. The “problem” with Indigenous Australians isn’t really THEIR problem. The problem lies in the empty materialistic consumerist secular Australian “society”. Traditional Indigenous Australians lived spiritual, communitarian lives in harmony with nature. I think it’s mainstream Australia (e.g. the materialistic money hungry Forrests, Packers & Lowys of this world) who need “help” to learn to live a deeper more meaningful life, a life more in harmony with our spiritual nature, our environment and community!

  3. Bob Durnan

    A bit of dissembling going on there, Tom.
    The capitalists simply making a “pernicious smokescreen”? I don’t think so.

    Of course Twiggy’s campaign “won’t further the rights of Aboriginal people” in the general sense: it doesn’t claim to do so.

    GenerationOne is obviously designed to focus specifically on advancing a particular right – the right to work. It’s good to see Twiggy taking up pursuit of this old leftwing demand.

    The GenerationOne campaign shouldn’t be dismissed just because its aims and methods fail to conform with Trotskyite dogma.

  4. Dajopa

    @AWESOME PETE – Indigenous Australians aren’t museum exhibits. They live in the real world. the majority within our urban sprawl. Dying earlier, spending more time in hospital or prison than the non-indignous pop. isn’t an indication of a ‘meaningful’ life. It’s usually an indication of a pretty crappy one. If someone wants to change that, they shouldn’t be pissed on, despite their motives; without a viable alternative.

  5. Edwin McLean

    I have no problem with people critising a proposition, but they have to have some sort of alternative. I guess working is only one solution to a multitude of issues, but the ethic of working on the issues to deliver a personal outcome, whether it be a normal job or some other more spiritual pursuit, is the sort of ethic that can be encompased with in the pursuit of “work”. Just get started on it the answers will come.

  6. Oscar Jones

    Firebrace is spot on.
    Twiggy not only reaps the profits off indigenous Australians but all of the inhabitants of this land.

    Giving back just a bit after his disgraceful campaign and scare-mongering during the great mining tax ‘debate’ should never be forgotten. ‘Smokescreen’ is the right word.

  7. Observation

    Its the same old story. But with all the discussions, different policies and interventions no body can tell us what is really needed. Not even the Aborigines. Even they argue amongst themselves on what they really want. Maybe it is not one answer but many. They are not one nation with one voice and each of their sub groups put forward different solutions, usually on the same topic.

    How do these guys want to become self sufficient and not rely on hand outs as the catch cry goes? Well like all the rest of us they need to work….don’t they, or is it because of their spiritual culture they should only occupy themselves in story telling from the dream time? Or do they only work in the tourism industry because then they can truly express their heritage. Or should we treat them like everyone else in the country? Or do we already? Do we give them land to be managed and run by their local elder group to mine, run stock or make into a tourist park? You have city guys who are lawyers and doctors right through to guys out in the bush rarely seeing any form of our western society, but even though one has all the perks of the modern amenities, which one is happier and what would each one recommend to better their life?

  8. Liz45

    @OBSERVATION – Do we give them land to be managed and run by their local elder group to mine, run stock or make into a tourist park?

    Don’t you mean, ‘do we give them land that was theirs in the first place’? There has been studies done(Henry Reynolds) that nowhere did indigenous people give their land to the invaders. This land is and has always been aboriginal land. They had to fight hard to get the ‘bits’ back – now they’re being forced to sign their land over with some con job of a house? that may or may not come off. Nobody else has to sign over their land for 5 yrs?(probably for mining purposes? a link to ‘Twiggy’ perhaps?)in order to gain basic standards of living that the rest of us accept as our right. Nowhere else do people have to send their kids to school each day that involves a distance of 120 klms? Then there’s the recent policy, that the native language of students is not to be spoken at school any more! This is in spite of those who know, that in order to teach a child to read, it’s more productive to teach them in their own language first. But govt beaurecrats know better it seems!

    I hope that these offers of employment are in consultation with indigenous people, not just another example of paternalistic and patronising doing what’s ‘best for them’? More talking down – talking at people, instead of engaging with them! I think it’s called respect!

    The Labor Govt has only exaccerbated the racist policies of the Howard Intervention. The removal of CDEP (so that the Racial Discrimination Act could be repealed) changed a positive situation, where people had their unemployment benefits topped up, so that they received about $1000 per fortnight while they learned skills that they could use in the future. Now they only receive about $115 in cash and the same on their Basics Card(read RACIST card) where it can only be used in certain stores for certain things – there’s a separate queue in said supermarkets for those with the RACIST card. This is just another racist and humiliating method of decades ago, when in those times indigenous workers received beef, tea and sugar etc. The indigenous people have no choice – either work as slave labour($4-$11 per hour?) or don’t receive any benefits at all! Some can be working side by side with non-indigenous workers, who are in receipt of the award wage! How can this be OK?

    I have been to the Sydney Rally today, and recently, went to a local rally and heard a man from the NT tell a horrific story of being sacked because he allegedly refused to empty septic refuse into an area that was not far from a primary school. Such things would bring immediate howls of protest almost anywhere else- there’d be ‘mass removals’ to avoid disease, and very strong disinfectant would be sprayed post haste. Not in the NT? After all, if you don’t consider them to be human beings like ‘us’, it doesn’t really matter does it? If this is the attitude of govts or councils up there, I hate to think what might be the agreements re employment for indigenous people in this instance. If you don’t do as you’re told, even though it’s illegal, then you lose your job!

    Are they going to receive proper training? Are they going to receive proper award wages? Are they going to enjoy the same rights as the rest of the country re superannuation and workers compensation and paid sick leave? An aboriginal man in the NT was working on a construction site. He broke his arm, it was in plaster, but he was told he had to work or not receive any money? No workers comp or sick leave there apparently. But, it’s so far away, and the racist media isn’t interested in justice for indigenous people, so, who cares? Sickening!

    I don’t have much faith in this process. After the way ‘Twiggy’ carried on over the mining profits tax, why should we have any hope re this project. I’ll wait until some indigenous people have looked it over, see what the response is, and then make up my mind. I hope my scepticism is unwarranted, but???

    Aboriginal people are justifiably very angry, and there is growing support by the Union movement and concerned and angry citizens like myself – we are sick to death of the racist and genocidal policies. Enough is enough! When I voted “yes” in the Referendum of 1967, I didn’t think this sort of disgraceful situation would be taking place in 2010. The Apology filled us with a false hope – and now reality is really confronting, unjust and sickening in its effects on peoples’ health – physical and emotional. No wonder they die too early – the rest of us cause that to happen, particularly racist govts! I feel ashamed!

  9. Iain Hall

    You could all get something from reading this piece about a speech by Bess Price she very clearly points out just why attempts like “Generation one” to fix the indigenous social problems are bound to fail.

  10. freecountry

    Oscar Jones,

    If Forrest did not “reap the benefits” he would not be able to do the thing and there would be no benefits to reap. That’s why he is able to make a serious stab at creating 50,000 indigenous jobs, while I’m hard pressed to create even one job for anybody. Think about it.

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