The anniversary of the historic national apology to the Stolen Generations reminds the nation that much is still needed to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians unions said today.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the apology in Federal Parliament on February 13 last year was a significant day in Australian history and long overdue.
A year on, the task of bridging the gap on life expectancy, employment, health, education and living conditions remains a major priority, she said.
“A large proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face barriers to employment posed by skills, education and opportunity,” she said.
“Indigenous Australians are less likely to have a job but if they do, they are paid far less than average workers and have lower job security.
“The workforce participation rate among the Indigenous population is 43.2%, compared to 65.1% for the entire population, and the unemployment rate is 15.5%, three times the national rate.
“Average gross earnings for Indigenous Australians are 41% of the entire workforce.
“Indigenous earnings have actually gone backwards since 1996, and the benefits of a decade of strong economic growth have not spread to the Indigenous population.
“Indigenous workers are among the most vulnerable in the workforce. Many are employed casually or part-time in jobs that have little security or stability.
“The vulnerability of Indigenous workers is particularly a problem in the context of the Global Financial Crisis. The current downturn must not be allowed to add to the disadvantage felt by many Indigenous Australians.”
Ms Burrow said central to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians would be decent work on decent wages and conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers.
Unions will be closely monitoring the implementation of the Australian Employment Covenant – which aims to place 50,000 indigenous people in work over the next two years – to ensure that these jobs meet national standards of decent work.
“We welcome the principles of the Australian Employment Covenant, but note that many well-meaning schemes for indigenous employment have failed in the past,” Ms Burrow said.
On Monday, the ACTU will launch an online national survey of Indigenous employment.
The survey is co-ordinated by the ACTU’s Indigenous Officer, Kara Touchie.
Ms Touchie said it would provide a vital snapshot of what Indigenous workers value most about their jobs, what they would like to see improved, and will give input into union campaigns to improve Indigenous employment outcomes.