Australia needs to ask itself, “What can be done to improve the education and employment opportunities for our aboriginal population?” There is a need to break the generational cycle of unemployment and domestic breakdowns.
Mal Brough has again brought himself condemnation with his suggestion to bring young people into the resorts of the Tourism Industry. However, the recognition of tourism as a significant industry across regional Australia creates the next question, “What other industries are significant in regional Australia where aboriginal populations are greatest?” This leads to the observation of Australia’s current resources export boom and the mining industry.

The mining industry has a history of interactions with Australia’s indigenous population as long as white colonisation. Some of the poorer examples include, the discovery of gold at Tennant Creek on the aboriginal reserve resulting in their removal to another reserve or where aboriginal people were used to mine asbestos at Wittenoom prior to 1966. The Howard government also satisfied its constituency by addressing mining and pastoral leases in its “clarification” of the Wik case.

There is a current push in the Western Australia mining industry to import overseas labour under the Howard government’s labour importation scheme. Other suggestions have been to offer semi-skilled jobs to local farmers during the drought. In the meantime, the various mining conglomerates continue to fly their workers in from cities on Australia’s seaboard on a shift basis.

However, no politicians have married the lack of workers with the endemic unemployment across regional Australia, in particular the mineral resource rich areas of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Within the current resource boom there must be room for government to work with the mining industry to create tertiary education opportunities, apprenticeships and employment at little financial cost to the betterment of our young indigenous population. Such programs can break the generational cycle of seeming futility.