MENTION finding a job at the moment and it is the workforce changes the Abbott government is trying to implement that come to mind, but Thursday was a reminder of the important role of the NSW government, particularly through education and not just in the classroom.
With a jobs expo underway it was an excellent opportunity for both Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Victor Dominello and Minister for Women Pru Goward to focus on the opportunities and inequities in the labour market.
Minister Goward’s message to young women and to employers was that it takes more than a legislative framework to change workplace practices, it takes a change in attitude, and not just from employers.
While employers do need to take steps to counter gender bias when hiring staff it is important that girls and young women contemplating subject choices at school and career paths don’t limit their options by avoiding trades traditionally associated with men.
In Orange the sight of women in mining industry gear is not unusual and many have found well paid work driving very expensive heavy machinery, but in skilled trades in general they are under represented and the workforce is the poorer for it.
There are also barriers to women’s career progress because of inflexible and often discriminatory attitudes to maternity leave, childcare and structuring part-time work.
Minister Dominello praised the progress which has been made in providing school and vocational education for indigenous students here.
In Canobolas Rural Technology High School and TAFE’S Winhanganha Aboriginal learning centre Orange has two educational facilities which are helping overcome the stubbornly high levels of unemployment in the indigenous community.
Mr Dominello pointed to a recent survey which found a substantial number of Australians considered Aboriginal people lazy and unfairly favoured with government programs. What many Australians removed from the Aboriginal experience don’t see is the poor educational outcomes and limited job opportunities which have confronted Aborigines in the past.
Access to meaningful employment is a right every Australian should enjoy but this is not the reality. In Orange concrete steps are being taken towards this goal.