APY Lands: employment and training in construction

First posted on 29 November 2008 under APY Lands, Employment & Housing.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: TAFE & training

Summary

Broad commitments by governments to train and employ Anangu in the construction and maintenance of houses and other buildings are commonplace on the APY Lands. In 2007 and 2008, such commitments were frequently made during negotiations for a $25 million housing program. As of February 2009, no detailed information had been released on the number of jobs that would be created as part of this program or how governments planned to sustain Anangu employment beyond the main construction phase.

The Paper Tracker believes that the governments’ overarching goals need to be broken down into real and measurable targets and timelines and that transparent reporting and evaluation processes need to be established.

The Paper Trail

$25 million housing construction package

In late October 2006, the State and Federal Governments announced joint plans for “a major new housing initiative” on the APY Lands.[i]

Six months later, the terms and conditions of a $25 million funding offer were presented to the APY Executive Board. As part of that presentation, the Board was told that “local people” would be involved in the construction of new houses and the upgrade of existing homes.[ii]

Subsequently, throughout protracted negotiations, both the State and Federal Governments continued to stress that job creation for Anangu was a central part of the negotiation process.

Some examples:

  • on 15 August 2007, the Federal Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs informed Anangu, in writing, that as part of the $25 million package, there would “be more jobs” for them and that they would receive training so that they could “help to build and upgrade the houses”[iii]
  • on 6 May 2008, the State Government’s Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division (AARD) wrote:

it is envisaged that Anangu will be employed both during construction and in ongoing repairs and maintenance programs and in housing management … Training and employment of Anangu is a central component of the planned housing package; this could very well include apprenticeships and traineeships as well as provide certificate level and unskilled labour employment”[iv]

  • on 24 July 2008, the State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Jay Weatherill MP) reported that “a comprehensive program of construction and associated training and employment will be progressed”[v]
  • on 8 September 2008, the State Department for Families and Communities stated that it would “make sure” jobs went to “local Anangu people” and, to that end, had established a “subcommittee” to examine options for both training and ongoing employment in housing maintenance and management[vi]
  • in October 2008, AARD reported that a government agency had developed “three new housing designs” to enable “efficient construction of housing to remote locations.” The report continued, “construction techniques have been designed to create opportunities to employ Anangu in the manufacture, transportation, and onsite construction of houses.” Once again, AARD stated that the $25 million housing package would “provide opportunities for Anangu to gain employment in the construction and maintenance processes[vii]
  • on 14 November 2008, the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs (Hon Jenny Macklin MP) confirmed that the “construction and maintenance of new and upgraded houses” would “provide work and training opportunities for Anangu people.”[viii]

PREVIOUS SCHEMES AND PROJECTS

Plans to create sustainable employment for Anangu in housing construction and maintenance pre-date the announcement of the $25 million proposal, in some cases by many years.[ix]

A trained housing crew at Mimili

In 2003, the Federal Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) provided funding for six Anangu men to commence two-year traineeships in civil construction. As part of this training, the men were supposed to help build nine houses in their home community of Mimili.[x]

While five of the houses had been completed by November 2003, a lack of coordination between participating government agencies then led to protracted delays in the issuing of contracts for the remaining houses. For long periods of time the trainees were unable “to work on any significant construction projects.” Half of the trainees subsequently “pulled out of the program.”[xi]

A ‘comprehensive training and employment pathway’ (2004)

In 2004, the State Department of Administrative and Information Services (DAIS), the Department of Further Education Employment Science and Technology (DFEEST) and the Aboriginal Housing Authority (AHA) developed a joint proposal to increase:

the capacity and capability of locally based Aboriginal organisations to deliver construction works and facility maintenance services within the APY Lands and associated region.[xii]

This proposal was not limited to community housing. It also envisaged significant employment and training opportunities for Anangu in the construction of government facilities (e.g. schools, police stations, child parent centres) and government-employee housing.[xiii]

Having acknowledged that existing government-funded construction programs were “predominantly delivered by external contractors using non-indigenous and non-local labour,” the proposal outlined a goal of facilitating “the staged development of an Aboriginal construction industry” to shift the “relative balance between external contractors and indigenous organisations”:

The aim of this proposal is to increase and maximise the capacity and capability of local indigenous organisations and employees to deliver these programs through providing the requisite skills, workplace and enterprise training.[xiv]

In part, the goals of the proposal would be achieved by:

  • requiring external contractors to employ Aboriginal workers, and
  • contracting TAFE to deliver particular “construction and facility maintenance works” using “local indigenous workers, apprentices and trainees.”[xv]

In November 2004, the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s APY Lands Task Force endorsed the proposal.[xvi] This endorsement charged all of the agencies involved (DAIS, DFEEST and AHA) with the task of developing an “operational framework” that included:

  • service delivery models
  • a risk management strategy
  • governance arrangements, and
  • timeframes for implementation.[xvii]

More formally, the endorsement linked the proposal to specific actions and timeframes under the Task Force’s strategic plan. For example, by December 2005, the agencies were expected to have developed “a comprehensive training and employment pathway for Anangu in the construction and training industry.”[xviii]

In April 2005, DAIS reported that discussions between the three agencies had “identified the need” for each of them “to clarify current policies and practices.” At that time, “no specific targets for employment” had been set, though DAIS “envisaged that this [would] occur in discussions with Anangu organisations.”[xix]

A month on, AHA reported that it was working with TAFE to “identify trainings and apprenticeships” but that this was “an ongoing piece of work that [was] yet to come to actual fruition.”[xx]

More than a year later, in September 2006, DAIS reported, somewhat vaguely, that the tri-agency project had resulted in “employment for Aboriginal young people” and that “further opportunities [were] being explored.”[xxi]

To date, the Paper Tracker has not located any substantial information on this project and its “comprehensive training and employment pathway.”

Wali-K Building Fabrication Team (2004)

A more modest attempt to support Anangu’s involvement in the construction industry was re-launched at Pukatja in the second half of 2004.[xxii] Known as “Wali K”, this community-based enterprise centred on the operations of a building fabrication workshop.

By March 2005, Wali K employed four local Anangu men and was producing, among other things, window security screens and yard fence panels. At that time, it had plans to begin manufacturing aluminum windows in a “joint venture partnership” with an Alice Springs-based company.[xxiii]

Reporting on this success, the Federal Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) stated that Wali K had “a strong focus on developing a long term employment base for Anangu within the housing sector.”[xxiv]

On 10 January 2006, the Federal and State Governments entered into a Shared Responsibility Agreement (SRA) with Pukatja community to expand the Wali K business. The stated purpose of the SRA was to “develop a windows and door frames manufacturing service for houses built on the APY Lands.”[xxv]

Under the agreement, the Federal Government committed $35,700 for the “purchase of a metal saw” and “the development of a business plan.” It also promised to provide “support for metal trades apprentices.”[xxvi]

For its part, the State Government agreed to:

  • contract Wali K “to provide windows and door frames for six new houses built on the APY Lands in 2005-06”
  • “explore future building/repair opportunities” and
  • “provide training and support apprentices in partnership with the Australian Government.”[xxvii]

On 10 May 2006, the Federal Government reported that the SRA was:

strongly focused on developing long term employment opportunities, sustainable livelihoods and a broader skill base for the Pukatja community. Currently the Wali K project employs four CDEP participants and the short term outlook is for this number to increase to eight.[xxviii]

Notwithstanding those high expectations, as of August 2008, comments from local Anangu indicated that the SRA’s overarching goals had not been achieved.[xxix]

The Wali K SRA was scheduled to “be formally reviewed by an independent party” in the second half of 2007.[xxx] On 2 December 2008, the Paper Tracker asked the Federal Government for information on the findings of that review and, more broadly, on the status of this particular SRA.

In a reply dated 22 December 2008, the Federal Government reported:

The Wali-K SRA is no longer active.  It concluded around July 2007 following the departure of the business supervisor.  The SRA has not been independently reviewed but was monitored during its operation by the Port Augusta ICC in accordance with the normal contract management arrangements applied to funded projects.

The enterprise generally delivered quality products, however there were ongoing issues around its capacity to win contracts on a cost competitive basis. The shed from which the business operated is still equipped and being used by the community for CDEP activities.[xxxi]

Key questions and clear targets: 2009 and beyond

The Paper Tracker trusts that the lessons of the recent past will inform the State and Federal Governments’ approach to developing and delivering proper training and sustainable employment outcomes as part of the $25 million APY Lands housing construction program.

On 8 December 2008, the Paper Tracker asked the State Department for Families and Communities for information on what training and employment opportunities would be provided to Anangu as part of the $25 million program.[xxxii]

On 21 January 2009, the Department replied that:

  • it was difficult to estimate the likely numbers of full-time and part-time jobs that would be generated through the program as a number of employment strategies were still being investigated.
  • written clauses will be included in contracts to ensure that any work undertaken has specific employment opportunities for local people.
  • every contractor engaged under the program would need to report on their achievement of local employment outcomes.
  • in the first instance, employment opportunities were expected to focus on labour hire to support contractors.
  • additional local jobs were likely to be created in the areas of administration, tenancy management, maintenance repairs and landscaping.
  • the APY Executive would be fully involved in developing the final employment and training strategy and key performance targets. [xxxiii]

Click here to read the Department’s full response (file size 574KB).

Additional information (added 10 February 2009)

On 15 December 2008, the Paper Tracker asked the State Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology (DFEEST) for an update on its efforts to deliver training in housing construction and maintenance through APY TAFE.

In a reply dated 22 January 2009, the Department noted that in 2008, no APY TAFE students had obtained a housing construction and maintenance-related qualification. However, seven APY TAFE students had completed an accredited unit related to housing construction and maintenance.[xxxiv]

According to the Department, the training for this accredited unit had been provided to CDEP participants and “conducted whilst carrying out repairs and maintenance at the Amata School and on Council buildings.”[xxxv]

The Department stated that in 2009 APY TAFE would:

  • “extend the program at Amata with links to …various contractors,” and
  • “work towards” the development of “an employment model” that included “traineeships and apprenticeships” and enabled “those wanting to work in the construction industry to do so”.[xxxvi]

Finally, the Department indicated that APY TAFE was “involved in discussions” with State and Commonwealth agencies that were aimed at “developing an employment model for Anangu to obtain employment in housing construction and/or maintenance on the APY Lands.”[xxxvii] The Paper Tracker notes that the Department was involved in a similar venture in 2004 but that it failed to produce any sustainable results.[xxxviii]

Click here to read the Department’s January 2009 letter (file size 471KB).

This article was last updated in February 2009. It has been archived and will no longer be updated. It will, however, remain accessible online as a source of background information for anyone wishing to undertake further research on this issue. Information included in the article was current at the time it was archived. Keep in mind, however, that Ministerial changes and names of departments, among other things, may have since changed.


[i] Phillips, K. 30 October 2006, “Pledge for housing as Lands rejoice,” Advertiser, p7.

[ii] Minutes of Meeting of APY Executive Board held on 17 April 2007, p1. Available at: www.waru.org/organisations/ap/apyminutes.

[iii] FACSIA provided this information within a handout distributed at a Special General Meeting of APY held at Umuwa on 17 August 2007 (Minutes of that meeting and the handout are available at: www.waru.org/organisations/ap/apyminutes. Accessed: 21 November 2008).

[iv] Mazel, J. 6 May 2008. Letter to G. Lewis, Pukatja Community Inc.

[v] Government of South Australia, July 2008, “Response by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation to the ‘Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands Commission of Inquiry: A report into sexual abuse’,” p[13]

[vi] This information was provided by Mr P Fagan-Schmidt, General Manager, Affordable Housing and Sector Development, Housing SA, and Ms L Forrest, Director, Strategic Interventions (DFC) during their appearance before the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia on 8 September 2008.

[vii] Government of South Australia, October 2008, “Progress on the Lands: Update on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands,” p3.

[viii] Macklin, J. 14 November 2008, Letter to Rev Peter McDonald.

[ix] For example, in 1972, Pukatja and Kaltjiti communities formed an association to advance the construction, maintenance and repair of “dwelling-houses” for Anangu and “to employ or otherwise engage” people with that work (see: Constitution of ‘Ernabella Wali Kanyilpai,’ 1972).

[x] Parliament of South Australia, 2004, Report of the Select Committee on Pitjantjatjara Land Rights, pp218, p53

[xi] Parliament of South Australia, 2005, Annual Report of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee 2004/2005, pp235, p44-45.

[xii] Department of Administrative and Information Services et al. October 2004, “Enhancing Aboriginal Employment and Training on the APY Lands through Government Housing Construction and Maintenance Program,” p4.

[xiii] Department of Administrative and Information Services et al. October 2004, “Enhancing Aboriginal Employment and Training on the APY Lands through Government Housing Construction and Maintenance Program,” p2 & 6.

[xiv] Department of Administrative and Information Services et al. October 2004, “Enhancing Aboriginal Employment and Training on the APY Lands through Government Housing Construction and Maintenance Program,” p2.

[xv] Department of Administrative and Information Services et al. October 2004, “Enhancing Aboriginal Employment and Training on the APY Lands through Government Housing Construction and Maintenance Program,” p3.

[xvi] Department of the Premier and Cabinet, December 2004, “APY Task Force Strategic Plan,” (Strategic Objective 4), p2.

[xvii] Department of Administrative and Information Services et al. October 2004, “Enhancing Aboriginal Employment and Training on the APY Lands through Government Housing Construction and Maintenance Program,” p8.

[xviii] Department of the Premier and Cabinet, December 2004, “APY Task Force Strategic Plan,” (Strategic Objective 4), p2.

[xix] Carr, J (DAIS). 14 April 2005. Information provided to the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia, p9.

[xx] Lawson, J. 25 May 2005. Transcript of evidence given to Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia, p332.

[xxi] Department for Administrative and Information Services, 2006, Annual Report 2005-06, p52.

[xxii] In November 2004, DEWR indicated that the Wali K program had “only commenced this financial year” but was based on a program that Marleston TAFE had operated at Pukatja between 1996 and 1999 (see Henry, R (DEWR). November 2004, Information provided to Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia). In fact, the origin of the program stretches back to the 1972 establishment of ‘Ernabella Wali Kanyilpai’ (see: Constitution of ‘Ernabella Wali Kanyilpai,’ 1972).

[xxiii] Donald, D. (AP Services). 17 March 2005. Letter to M Tutton (FACS).

[xxiv] Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, January/February 2005, “The Wali-K Pukatja CDEP,” Indigenous Employment Lift Out”, p10. Available at: http://www.workplace.gov.au/NR/rdonlyres/47A4B4D9-EAAC-4E85-BE22-B57FC3E0B523/0/EE_Ind_supp_Feb2005.pdf (file size: 788KB). Accessed: 24 November 2008.

[xxv] Patterson, R. 1 February 2007. Letter to Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia.

[xxvi] Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, May 2006, Submission to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs’ Inquiry into Indigenous Employment, House of Representatives, Parliament of Australia, Submission 73a, p31.

[xxvii] Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, May 2006, Submission to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs’ Inquiry into Indigenous Employment, House of Representatives, Parliament of Australia, Submission 73a, p32.

[xxviii] Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, May 2006, Submission to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs’ Inquiry into Indigenous Employment, House of Representatives, Parliament of Australia, Submission 73a, p32.

[xxix] In a letter handed to the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs (Hon Jenny Macklin MP) on 13 August 2008, Pukatja community leader, Ms Makinti Minutjukur wrote: “the places we could work in the community changed, and/or disappeared, that is they weren’t funded any more like Wali K which only two years ago employed young men making building products.” (Minutjukur, M. 12 August 2008. Letter to J. Macklin).

[xxx] Patterson, R. 1 February 2007. Letter to Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, Parliament of South Australia.

[xxxi] Alley, J (FaHCSIA). 22 December 2008. Email to J. Nicholls

[xxxii] McDonald, P. 8 December 2008. Letter to J. Mazel.

[xxxiii] Fagan-Schmidt, P. 21 January 2009. Letter to Rev P. McDonald

[xxxiv] Garrand, R. 22 January 2009. Letter to Rev. P McDonald.

[xxxv] Garrand, R. 22 January 2009. Letter to Rev. P McDonald.

[xxxvi] Garrand, R. 22 January 2009. Letter to Rev. P McDonald.

[xxxvii] Garrand, R. 22 January 2009. Letter to Rev. P McDonald.

[xxxviii] See Department of Administrative and Information Services et al. October 2004, “Enhancing Aboriginal Employment and Training on the APY Lands through Government Housing Construction and Maintenance Program.”

The Paper Tracker works hard to provide accurate and up-to-date information. We will correct any inaccurate information as soon as it is brought to our attention. Please contact us if you have additional information or can provide us with an update.