Panel Discussion by Shirley McPherson
Gulkula, Gove Peninsula,
Arnhem Land, NT.
The ILC is proud to be a sponsor of the Garma Festival and I would like to thank organisers for the opportunity to address this Forum.
I am a Yamatji woman, from Western Australia and out of respect for cultural protocols I recognise and thank the Yolngu people – the Traditional Owners of the country on whose land we are meeting today.
As the Chairperson of the Indigenous Land Corporation, I have been asked to talk about Economic Development. Let me be blunt. Indigenous economic development has to be more than just words. The words must be matched by action and long-term partnerships and projects that make a real difference on the ground. Training must lead to employment and real jobs – not more training.
Creating real jobs as part of economic development is crucial in assisting people to transition from welfare dependency to participation in the mainstream economy. I would like to quickly talk about two major economic development projects the ILC has underway in the NT to illustrate my point.
The first is the acquisition this year of the Ayers Rock Resort in its entirety by the ILC for $300 million. Many of you will have heard about this. The acquisition of Ayers Rock Resort by the ILC is a huge step and a massive challenge. But, unless we are prepared to take huge steps and challenge ourselves collectively, we will fail to make real progress in Closing the Gap in Indigenous disadvantage.
Indigenous people want to be part of Australia’s continuing economic development. This can only happen if Indigenous people have opportunities to actively participate in the economy. That’s why the ILC bought Ayers Rock Resort – there are real jobs and an opportunity for Indigenous people to become more involved in the tourism industry. At present, just a handful of the 670 staff at the Resort are Indigenous. The ILC is aiming to have 200 Indigenous people employed at the Resort by the end of 2015, with the number of Indigenous staff reaching 340, or more than 50% of total Resort staffing, by the end of 2018.
As a result of this acquisition, the ILC will also establish a National Indigenous Tourism Training Academy at Ayers Rock Resort. The establishment of the tourism academy at the Resort will see 200 people in training each year from 2013. After five years of operation, it is anticipated that 500 Indigenous trainees will graduate from the academy with around half of them gaining employment at the Resort and the remainder being placed in other jobs in the tourism and hospitality industries across Australia.
The economic development opportunity for Central Australian Indigenous communities over the coming years will be huge. For the second part of my presentation today I would like to give you all an update on the ILC’s integrated Gunbalanya Meats and Gunbalanya Station business.
I talked about this project at a previous Garma Festival, when the project was just getting under way. I am happy to be able to come back to Garma this year and report the the Gunbalanya Meats and Gunbalanya Station business is doing well and delivering benefits to the community. Under the 15-year agreement with the community and the NLC, the Gunbalanya cattle herd has grown from 1,000 to 7,000 head. There has been a big increase in employment in pastoral and abattoir jobs. The ILC has finished construction of a larger, modern abattoir, accommodation quarters, new water infrastructure, and 178 kilometres of new fencing. A total of 800 square kilometres of land has been fenced off as grazing pasture, with the overall stock carrying capacity of the property to increase to 9,400 head. Young stock has been sourced from other ILC properties at Strangways and Warrigundu and grown and finished at Gunbalanya.
The positive outcomes of this project for the local community extend far beyond the profits generated by the commercial business. As the enterprise develops over the years, it is expected to provide significant and growing employment opportunities for people in the community. The flow-on social and community benefits that these opportunities for large-scale employment and skill development will bring, will be far-reaching.
The ILC remains committed to actively seeking out land-based economic development opportunities which will provide long term and sustainable benefits to my people. Through its National Indigenous Land Strategy the ILC has clearly stated that to encourage economic development there must be an investment in providing employment and training opportunities and supporting improved access to education.
Ultimately, the ILC believes that economic development along with other key challenges such as education, health, housing and infrastructure, will provide the tools, capacity, pride and dignity that are needed so that there is true equality in life and opportunity for the Indigenous peoples of Australia.
To do all of this we must make an investment in our people.