record and publish the outcomes achieved. This will be measured by the number of indigenous participants who complete job-specific training, commence employment with an AEC employer and subsequently remain in full or part-time employment for a minimum of 26 weeks.Such public reporting has not occurred. Indeed, two years into the scheme, the AEC does not yet have accurate data with which to assess outcomes on these measures. This is something they are seeking to redress, but even when such data are made available key aspects of the scheme will remain unclear. For example, the AEC currently estimates that about 2800 indigenous people have been placed into Covenant Jobs. Even this might be a significant achievement. But for proper evaluation more information is needed about retention rates as some employment programs achieve high placement rates but lose many of their participants early on. And any potential for misinterpreting the data needs to be minimised. This means addressing issues such as "substitution effects" whereby a successful indigenous job placement comes at the expense of another. Significantly, several AEC employers also have Reconciliation Action Plans, under which they might have already committed to indigenous employment targets. That means it is impossible to know whether a position offered under the AEC would have been filled by another indigenous job seeker anyway. The problem here is not the outcome as increased indigenous employment is a positive result. Rather, it is the technical question of isolating the effects of the AEC in order to accurately determine its contribution. Understanding value for money also requires transparency about the public investment. The contract between the Commonwealth government and the AEC was signed before the introduction of new rules that require government agencies to publicly list all grants they have made. That means the amount of taxpayer money committed to the AEC has not been listed. The government’s last Closing the Gap report identified that at least $4 million had been earmarked for the AEC including start-up funding and a "long-term funding model based on the achievement of outcomes", but it is not clear whether this is the total funding committed or just a proportion of it. What we do know, however, is that this allocation is not to fund training, which is provided through existing government schemes such as the Indigenous Employment Program. A key feature of the funding agreement is the provision of outcome payments to the AEC on the basis of job pledges, job placements and employee retention to 26 weeks. To date, because of problems in collecting and publishing accurate data, the AEC has only claimed outcome payments for job pledges. But not all of the jobs promised under the scheme have resulted in jobs for indigenous people, and it is far from clear that all will. Until more detailed information is publicly released about the AEC’s outcomes and its agreements with government, it will be impossible to assess if taxpayer investments are creating sustainable indigenous jobs. After two years, it is in the public interest that there be far greater public disclosure and discussion about this unusual initiative launched with great fanfare and endorsed by some very influential Australians.
AEC indigenous job scheme: is it taxpayers’ money well spent?
Until more detailed information is publicly released about the AEC’s outcomes and its agreements with government, it will be impossible to assess if taxpayer investments are creating sustainable indigenous jobs, writes Dr Kirrily Jordan from Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, ANU.