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Job satisfaction riscilla Collins remembers the first P Success stories in time she saw an Aboriginal person Indigenous employment working in a bank and the impact it had on her. “For me, it was a huge provide benefits that reach thing,” said Ms Collins, “When young [Aboriginal] kids see an Aboriginal far beyond the individual. person working, they say: ‘If they can do it, Story: Peter Cotton we can do it’.” Ms Collins, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), was giving evidence in Alice Springs to an inquiry into Indigenous employment. The inquiry is being conducted by the House of Representatives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Committee. Ms Collins told committee members that CAAMA is the largest Indigenous media organisation in Australia, with its own record label, a film and television production house, Left to right: Don Freeman, managing director of the Tjapukai and a television station. Established 25 years Aboriginal Cultural Park, with two of the performers, Steven ago to give Aboriginal people a voice in the Simon and Raymond Lafragua-Creek. Photo: Ann Rogers, Newspix; Staff of the Central Australian Aboriginal Media media, CAAMA now employs 36 people, Association (CAAMA): radio presenter Molly, film crew on mostly Aborigines, and has been hailed as one location in the Northern Territory, and cameraman of the success stories in Indigenous Warwick Thornton. employment.42 About the House November 2005
As part of its inquiry into Dr Carmen Lawrence, agreed it was providing them with examples ofIndigenous employment issues, the best for the committee to look at approaches and programs that seemAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander positive outcomes in Indigenous to be working.”Affairs Committee has been asked to employment. Another enterprise to giveexamine “positive factors and Dr Lawrence said this was evidence to the inquiry was the Aliceexamples amongst Indigenous particularly true given that policy Springs Desert Park, which has run acommunities and individuals which makers still couldn’t adequately very successful Indigenoushave improved employment define what programs actually employment program for 10 years.outcomes in both the public and improved the employment prospects Twenty two per cent of the park’sprivate sectors”. The committee is to of Indigenous Australians. staff are local Aboriginal people and,recommend to the government ways “With that in mind, [the in a submission to the committee,this can inform future policy committee] has turned the usual Guide Manager Jodie Clarkson saiddevelopment, and to assess what approach on its head and gone the park was enriched by itssignificant factors have contributed looking for examples of success,” said Aboriginal employees, and thoseto those positive outcomes identified, Dr Lawrence. “Employment employees were enriched byincluding what contribution initiatives that have failed Indigenous employment at the park.practical reconciliation has made. people have been well documented— “The success of the program has Committee Chair, Barry Wakelin, there are many places where you can built self esteem within (Indigenousthe Member for Grey (SA), said the find what doesn’t work. employees) which has had a flowcommittee’s focus on positive “We’re trying to find positive on effect to their families andoutcomes in Indigenous employment examples, but not so they can be community,” said Ms Clarkson.was the right approach. applied everywhere—one of the Indigenous employees at the “There’s probably as much to lessons to be learned is that programs park agree. “The tourist industry is alearn from those employment have to be tailored to the unique pretty good industry to be involvedinitiatives that fail Indigenous circumstances of each community and in,” said Vincent Forrester, a guide atpeople,” he said, “but there seems to group you’re dealing with. There’s no the park. “I can have 50 people atbe a fair repeat factor in the failures ‘one size fits all’. one talk. I can send 99.9 per cent ofand I think we’ll learn more from the “And we won’t ignore material them away with smiles on their faces.positives, where it’s working, rather about what doesn’t work, particularly I know I have done a good job. I getthan where it hasn’t.” when it comes to the behaviour of job satisfaction here every day, The Committee’s Deputy Chair, governments. Rather we’re looking to because it is a captive audience. I canthe Member for Fremantle (WA), see if we can assist communities by do my thing. I can start educating Continued page 44 About the House November 2005 43
Continued from page 43 Australians about their land, where they job]. This is not a recipe for success for come from and what it means. that individual, their family or the park.” “Nothing gives young people more The Desert Park approach to pride than earning an award wage— Indigenous employment ensures that not sit-down money, not work for the the best candidate gets the job, and dole, but award wage positions.” once an Indigenous person is employed, every effort is made to “Nothing gives young people more retain them. All park staff undertake pride than earning a wage.” cross-cultural, Arrernte language and anti-discrimination training, and bush knowledge and skills are given equal Another guide, Kylie Bloomfield, status to western scientific knowledge Hugh Woodbury, ranger at the Alice Springs Desert Park. said being a park ranger serves as a good at the park. role model within the community. Jodie Clarkson said that one of the Committee Deputy Chair, “When kids see you down the street, biggest employment challenges the Dr Lawrence, said she was hopeful the they’re singing out ‘ranger’ this, inquiry into Indigenous employment park faced was overcoming problems of ‘ranger’ that especially when you go to could highlight half a dozen success reliability and punctuality. “If you have the schools.” stories, such as Desert Park and grown up in a family where neither CAAMA. However Dr Lawrence said In her submission, Ms Clarkson parent has had a job,” she said, “a work said Desert Park invested extra time that once you began to examine ethic can be a new concept. Indigenous employment initiatives, and effort in the process of recruiting “We ensure that new starters Indigenous employees. This included you were inevitably drawn into the understand that the tourism industry question of Indigenous education, sending descriptions of vacant works by the clock and that being late positions to an extensive email list of which was often linked to health. will upset your workmates and make “The joined-up nature of these local Aboriginal organisations, families the park look bad. A watch is part of and individuals. problems is illustrated in the successful our uniform and we provide one where programs because they don’t just deal Ms Clarkson said that when a job necessary. with getting people to work on a came up at the park, traditional “Sometimes people think that if particular day,” says Dr Lawrence. owners, local Aboriginal families and they are late or don’t turn up, they’ll get “They are much broader in scope.” Aboriginal staff members were asked to into trouble or lose their job and [they Asked why the committee had inform their family networks. The park therefore] feel ashamed to call and let been asked to assess the particular doesn’t advertise positions in us know. We help them understand contribution of ‘practical’ reconciliation December or January because many that they are allowed to be sick. We just to positive employment outcomes for local Aboriginal people are involved in need to know so that we can plan for Indigenous people, Committee Chair ceremonies at that time of year. it.” Barry Wakelin said the substance of Desert Park has developed a Ms Clarkson said living and practical reconciliation was more uniquely sensitive approach to short working within two cultures was a important than symbolism. listing and interviewing Indigenous “Symbolic issues are part of the candidates for the jobs it offers. major challenge and it was sometimes necessary to help staff step between the back drop, but the substance and the According to Jodie Clarkson, if an reality and how it makes a difference to Indigenous applicant doesn’t meet demands of Western and Aboriginal culture. For instance, Aboriginal staff an individual’s life is always going to selection criteria for a job at the park, win the day with me,” said they’re contacted for a chat to assess who are traditional owners or older men are sometimes ‘culturally superior’ Mr Wakelin. “The fundamentals must whether their verbal skills are better prevail. That is, it’s important to than their written communication. If to some other Aboriginal staff, and overcome disadvantage, to have an it’s then felt that the applicant met the they may try to inappropriately education, to live in a house where selection criteria, they may be assisted delegate tasks where the ‘target’ or their people get a decent night’s sleep, to to modify their application prior to an delegating may feel culturally obliged have a decent diet and keep away from interview. to obey. drug abuse. Job interviews at the park are “We have also had to manage the “These things are more than conducted by a three person panel, implications of families involved in symbolic and you can only do so much including one Aboriginal who is either conflict [payback] in the workplace,” talking yourself up. What we’re about a staff member or a traditional owner. said Ms Clarkson. “We sought is looking at how people actually do it.” The interviews are conducted outside guidance from the involved parties and One company that’s ‘doing it’ for in a quiet, open area, or inside in a put them on opposite shifts until Indigenous employment is Rio Tinto, place with plenty of natural light. things settled down. particularly at its Argyle Diamonds “The most important thing we “We help staff understand why subsidiary in Western Australia’s need to assess is the applicant’s interest visitors ask ignorant, inappropriate and Kimberley region. in and commitment to the position,” culturally offensive questions,” she In the year 2000, Argyle said Ms Clarkson. “Individuals may be said. “And we collectively develop non- Diamonds decided to recruit more under pressure from families [to get a defensive answers to these questions.” workers from the Kimberley rather44 About the House November 2005
opportunity to work side by side and The park began life in the engage in problem solving and team basement of a shopping centre in the building exercises. small village of Kuranda near Cairns in Argyle has now surpassed its 15 per 1987. It had seven Aboriginal employees cent target for Indigenous employment at the time. All of them were performers. with local Aborigines now making up Today, the 25-acre Tjapukai 23 per cent of its workforce. And it Aboriginal Cultural Park is a $10 hopes that figure will reach 40 per cent million facility. It employs 100 people, by 2010. 85 of them Aborigines, and produces Barry Wakelin says sections of 40 shows and presentations a day. Australia’s corporate sector have some of Aboriginal employees work in all areas their best people helping them engage of the park, including technical andCAAMA film crew. management, customer service, reservations, retail, food and beverage, and administration. The park is built on land owned by local Indigenous people, who also own a majority shareholding in the attraction. The rest of the shares are owned by Indigenous Business Australia and a number of non- Indigenous investors. Tjapukai’s Marketing Director, Judy Freeman, told the committee that since 1987 the park had contributed almost $30 million to the Aboriginal community in profits, royalties, wages and the purchase of arts and artefacts. In recognition of that achievement, the park recently was awarded the Queensland Premier’s Reconciliation Award for Business. The park portrays all aspects of the Tjapukai tribe, from its dreamtime legends through to its life in contemporary Australia. Ms Freeman said the park had sparked cultural and language renewal in local Indigenous people, especially among the second generation of Tjapukai employees who Performance at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Photo: Newspix were now entering the park work force. “These children of the founders of with the Aboriginal community.“They Tjapukai have grown up with an Living and working within two want to bring these people forward and understanding that commitment to cultures was a major challenge. respect them,” says Mr Wakelin. “But excellence and reliable performance it’s not all altruistic. In fact, in many lead the way to success in the modern cases it’s engagement with a commercial world,” said Ms Freeman.than persist with a ‘fly in-fly out’ purpose. “Many members of the communityworkforce based in Perth. Initially, it set “These companies know that you who have worked as performers ata target of 30 per cent local employment have to work in the spirit of goodwill to Tjapukai have travelled the world,by 2005, with a minimum of half of achieve your commercial objectives and performing in 20 countries over 25this—15 per cent of the workforce—to we’ve now got a corporate mindset that international tours,” she said. “Thesebe Aboriginal people. At the time, less can see genuine commercial progress travellers returned home with anthan 5 per cent of the Argyle workforce linked with good outcomes.” expanded world view which haswas Aboriginal. At its Cairns hearings, the committee changed how this community sees itself Argyle overhauled its interview and heard of a brilliant outcome for and its place in the world.”recruitment process to ensure that it Indigenous employment in evidence The submissions and transcripts of publicprovided a culturally appropriate, but from the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural hearings for the Indigenous employmentstill robust assessment, of candidates’ Park. Tjapukai Park is one of Australia’s inquiry are available atemployability. It instigated a four day largest and most successful tourist www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/atsiaassessment program to give candidates attractions. It’s also Australian tourism’s or email firstname.lastname@example.org or phoneand their potential employers the largest employer of Aboriginal people. (02) 6277 4559. About the House November 2005 45