THE WEST AUSTRALIAN
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 14:26
Leading indigenous spokesman David Collard said Aboriginal people did not want to take mining jobs because digging up the land offended their traditional culture.
Mr Collard, a keynote speaker at yesterday's Indigenous Business, Enterprise and Corporations conference at the University of WA, said the jobs push by mining magnate Andrew Forrest was somewhat misguided.
Mr Collard, who coordinates indigenous employment for the National Resource Management program, said Mr Forrest had been encouraging his peers to train indigenous people for resource jobs.
Mr Forrest's Australian Employment Covenant and GenerationOne programs sought to bolster indigenous jobs across a range of fields - not just mining.
But his resource peers have come in for special encouragement, with Mr Forrest urging them to follow the lead of Fortescue Metals Group, which has trained more than 1000 indigenous people, and to train indigenous people instead of hiring migrant workers.
Mr Collard said indigenous people would rather have green- friendly jobs that would "heal the land", not mining jobs that involved tearing it up.
"He doesn't understand the traditional peoples' needs," Mr Collard said after the conference hosted by UWA's Business School. "He doesn't understand their aspirations. To say that he will get more jobs in mining is the answer, is really only the answer for the mining sector - not Aboriginal people."
But Indigenous scholar Professor Marcia Langton AM said that mining companies had a better understanding of how to "close the gap" than governments.
"Companies know that if they don't have a good relationship with locals, their projects could very well end up in trouble," she said.
Professor Langton said Australia's current Native Title system prevented companies from helping Indigenous communities in the most effective ways, such as through joint ventures. She called for legal and taxation reform to better help Indigenous people benefit from the nation's mining boom.
"There is an urgent need for a clear and simple taxation framework to maximise the potential economic and social stimulus of Native Title and Native Title settlements," Professor Langton said.
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