Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Packer signs up to jobs covenant, by Sarah Smiles - The Sydney Morning Herald - 5th August 2008

Businessman James Packer has agreed to employ 500 Aborigines as part of an ambitious initiative to get 50,000 indigenous people into work in the next two years.

The nation's main business organisation, the Business Council of Australia, has also expressed interest in joining the project.

The project, led by mining magnate Andrew Forrest, aims to get Aboriginal people off welfare and into full-time work.

It has received backing from the Federal Government, which has agreed to pay for training for Aboriginal people to get them job-ready.

The BCA, which represents the country's largest companies, has already spoken to Mr Forrest about the initiative.

Mr Forrest, Australia's richest man, has described the project as corporate Australia's "single best opportunity" to help solve the biggest social issue facing the nation.

Indigenous leader Warren Mundine, who is part of the project's steering committee, said he had also received a flurry of emails from "fairly large" companies interested in the project.

"This thing to me is exciting because it's corporate," said Mr Mundine. "It will be a different world when we wake up when this programs over."

He said the mining industry was well placed to absorb workers, but all sectors should consider employing Aboriginal people, including finance, retail and tourism.

Large corporations such as BHP Billiton, ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas are already boosting indigenous employment under a program run by Reconciliation Australia. The organisation has created more than 1700 jobs in the private sector over the last two years.

Barbara Livesey, chief executive of Reconciliation Australia, said it will approach Mr Forrest to "share lessons" of its own program and suggest it as a framework.

The steering committee has 100 days to design the initiative, named the Australian Employment Covenant. The goal is to get 50,000 Aboriginal people into work over the next two years. Under the covenant, they will be offered full-time employment, skills training and on-the-job mentoring.

"The mentors will be the heroes of the covenant," said Mr Forrest in a statement yesterday.

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