The Federal Government is looking to close the gap in First Nations employment by creating 3,000 jobs in remote Australia with the announcement of a new Remote Jobs and Economic Development Program (RJED). 

The Federal Government said that this $707 million investment is the first step in delivering on its commitment to replace the failed Community Development Program (CDP) with real jobs, proper wages and decent conditions.

The government said that the new Remote Jobs and Economic Development Program, starting in the second half of 2024, is about self-determination through economic and community development.

It will be implemented in partnership with First Nations people, build skills and experience, and deliver services that communities want.

The Federal Government has also announced that it will establish a National Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People to help achieve progress under the Closing the Gap agreement.

Indigenous children are almost eleven times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children. The National Commissioner will focus on working with First Nations people on evidence based programs and policies to turn those figures around.

Establishing the National Commissioner is the result of extensive discussions with the peak body, SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, which has been calling for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner for many years.

An interim Commissioner is set to be appointed mid-year and will work with the government and First Nations expert advisers to determine the powers, roles and functions of the National Commissioner, which will be established under legislation.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also released the 2023 Closing the Gap Annual Report and the 2024 Implementation Plan. The report assesses progress and commits to new initiatives focussed on improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Other key initiatives include:

  • $30.2 million for Remote Training Hubs in up to seven remote locations in Central Australia
  • $10.7 million to continue funding for the Justice Policy Partnership, working to reduce incarceration rates
  • Community Wi-Fi services for around 20 remote communities so people can access government services, education and stay connected, with funding arrangements to be settled through commercial negotiations with NBN Co
  • $24 million to expand the Junior Rangers program to 50 sites to boost engagement and attendance rates of First Nations students

Prime Minister Albanese said that the National Commissioner will be dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights, interests and wellbeing of First Nations children and young people, as well as calling on their strengths, sense of hope, and ideas for change.

“The Commissioner will address the unacceptable rates of out-of-home care. What it all comes down to is strengthening families and keeping children safe,” Prime Minister Albanese said.

“It is what experts and the Coalition of the Peaks have been calling for, guided every step of the way by the evidence. We have listened.

“The Remote Jobs and Economic Development Program will deliver real jobs with proper wages and decent conditions, developed in partnership with Indigenous communities. These jobs will build skills and experience, and deliver services that communities want.”

Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, said that people in remote communities should have access to the benefits and dignity of work – for themselves, their families and the next generation.

“Establishing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner is about changing the trajectory and creating brighter futures for Indigenous children and young people,” Minister Burney said. 

“The status quo cannot continue and we are committed to making real change, strengthening families and getting better outcomes for Indigenous children and young people.”

Federal Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Health, Malarndirri McCarthy, said that the delivery of a proper jobs program in the bush will make a positive difference in the lives of Indigenous Australians and ensure they can fulfil their full potential regardless of where they live.

“As a former participant of a remote jobs program myself, I know all too well the importance that meaningful employment has on economic empowerment, health, happiness, and general wellbeing,” Assistant Minister McCarthy said. 

“Building on our significant delivery of better health, housing, education and employment services will help build stronger communities for all Australians and ensure more Indigenous Australians can live longer, healthier and happier lives.

“Every child deserves to live a healthy and happy life, and this is why it is critical we are working hand-in-hand with SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, to ensure more kids can achieve their full potential in life.”

Federal Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth, said that improving outcomes for First Nations communities, children and young people requires First Nations-led solutions. 

“A National Commissioner will build on our important work under Safe and Supported: the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children,” Minister Rishworth said. 

“The Commissioner will improve accountability and advocate for systemic change, informed by the voices and experiences of First Nations children and young people.

“Systemic change takes time, and elevating the voices of First Nations children through this Commissioner, will further embed the partnership elements of the Priority Reforms.”


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