Rio Tinto details blueprint for indigenous jobs – by Patricia Karvelas (The Australian – January 27, 2014)

MINING giant Rio Tinto has told Tony Abbott’s indigenous jobs review that enormous changes must be made to get Aborigines into jobs.

These include providing incentives for the nation’s best teachers to relocate to remote Australia and changing rules that make it attractive to stay on welfare in order to receive cheaper housing.

Rio Tinto Australia managing director David Peever, who has been appointed to the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, has written to the indigenous jobs review headed by mining magnate Andrew Forrest to present a blueprint for change.

Rio Tino has been under scrutiny after it decided to wind down its Gove alumina refinery in Arnhem Land, devastating a 1500-strong workforce that includes many indigenous employees, after telling Australian governments there was no point in further negotiations to save the plant.

Rio says in the third quarter of last year, the company employed approximately 1650 indigenous people in permanent roles across its Australian operations, representing 7.3 per cent of the total workforce.

“At a foundation level, significant improvement is required in areas such as early childhood education, basic literacy and numeracy, education, accommodation and health,” Mr Peever writes.

He told the review the government must address policy impediments that stop new employees coming to jobs such as a reduction in welfare benefits, including housing support, health and social security support. And he argued this must be co-ordinated across governments and their agencies.

Because welfare recipients receive a number of discounted or free services, employers have been arguing that they are so fearful of losing their benefits they have become reluctant to apply for jobs. Some employers argue that by keeping some benefits, unemployed people would be more willing to embrace jobs.

Mr Peever urged the Coalition to rethink incentives to encourage teachers to head to remote areas.

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