''We need to be investing more in education and employment services so that we are spending less on public order"
THE steep reversal of a downward trend in Aboriginal unemployment in NSW in recent years has forced the state government to order an overhaul of employment programs that are failing.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Victor Dominello, has asked his department to review 10 employment programs, including Aboriginal Jobs Together, which the Auditor General strongly criticised last month.
The department has been asked to cost the programs and assess the number of job placements, traineeships and cadetships they produced. Retention rates and evidence suggesting the programs would prove to be successful would also be reviewed.
''These are programs designed to get Aboriginal people into employment. I want to know if they are working,'' he said.
Mr Dominello said the state government was spending an average of $78 on labour and employment services for each Aboriginal person, $104 on social security and $3817 on public order and safety. He said a greater investment was needed in education and employment initiatives to reduce the rate of entry into correctional facilities.
''We need to be investing more in education and employment services so that we are spending less on public order,'' he said.
In 2007, the unemployment rate for Aboriginal people was 20 per cent - four times as high as the rate for the overall NSW population. It had fallen to 15 per cent in 2003 where it remained until 2006 when it started increasing.
''If the former administration were here, they'd say more of the same please and we are saying … we want some business plans, some modelling some evidence,'' he said. ''If we don't keep people in the system, then within a year or two they are going to be part of the unemployment statistic.''
The Auditor-General found the former government's Two Ways Together policy had not delivered the intended improvements for Aboriginal people.
Mr Dominello said NSW had the lowest employment rate for Aboriginal people of any state - at 59.9 per cent.
He asked his department to provide recommendations within three months on ''how to capitalise on opportunities for increased economic participation for Aboriginal people in NSW through exploration of partnerships with the private sector''.
Mr Dominello said the government was already focussed on the early years of schooling and would teach young Aboriginal children more about their indigenous culture and languages. This would help them develop a greater sense of identity.
He said further attention was needed to keep year 9 students engaged at school so that they completed their education. The review of jobs programs would aim to give people greater ''economic empowerment''.
Mr Dominello has visited Aboriginal communities and has already directed his department to investigate if teaching local languages could be the answer to woeful school attendance rates in Aboriginal communities.
''I wanted to see for myself first-hand what was going on … one [theme] that kept coming through was cultural and linguist empowerment,'' he said.
''I went to a lot of the remote areas, and they want their kids to have a greater sense of self. That happens ideally through the school system.'' He was convinced this would mean less truancy and better educational and employment outcomes.