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Greens call for fresh approach as Indigenous unemployment jumps

The Australian Greens are extremely concerned about the widening gap in employment rates between Australia’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson Employment and Aboriginal Issues says the latest ABS figures show the unemployment rate among Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander population increased alarmingly from 13.8% in 2007 to 18.1% in 2009, a loss of around equating to around 2000 jobs.

“Responses in Senate Estimates today highlighted that this is yet another area in which the Government is failing to deliver it’s promise to 'close the gap' for our Indigenous communities. It just isn’t acceptable,” Senator Rachel Siewert said today.

"Kevin Rudd promised and extra 10 000 new jobs for Indigenous Australians by 2018, but instead we have seen 2000 jobs lost. Their top-down strategy isn't working, and the employment gap is widening at a much faster rate, Senator Siewert said.

“The gap in the unemployment rate between Indigenous and other Australians has increased even further, from 23% in 2007 to 24.4% in 2009. During this time it grew the gap increased at 12.6%, compared to a 9.6% jump in 2007.

"This is a sign that the current approach is flawed and more needs to be done to provide realistic employment options and work-ready skills.

"This accelerating gap can't simply be blamed on the global financial crisis, when other sectors of the workforce fared much better. It is a clear indication of the failure of Rudd government policy to protect the most vulnerable workers and to deliver on their promises to disadvantaged Indigenous families.

“The effects of long term or widespread unemployment can be felt throughout our communities. The impact on mental health, families and relationships is significant and can be the precursor for serious social problems.

“The change from CDEP to Newstart is viewed by many people as a step backwards- moving away from employment and closer to welfare and I'm concerned about the impact this is having on communities.

“Positive and constructive policies need to be developed, implemented and resourced to drive change in our communities, providing the services and resources which will really make a difference,” Senator Siewert concluded.

Media Contact: Chris Redman – 0418 401 180

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