Release type: Speech


National Indigenous Empowerment Summit

Thank you for the invitation to be here today and speak with you all.

I begin by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we gather, the Turrbal and Jagera people.

I pay my respects to their Elders past and present.

And I extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This summit is an important gathering, to advance the empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities and recognise the importance of Indigenous voices and agency in shaping Australia’s future.

You’re discussing practical ways that we can all support self-determination and advancement in Indigenous communities through education, employment and economic development.

And skills are key.

The Albanese Government is committed to ensuring that every Australian has access to the education and training they need to thrive.

Education and training are powerful tools for change.

Arguably the most powerful ones we have at our disposal.

They open doors to opportunities, foster innovation and drive economic growth.

For Indigenous Australians, education is also a means to the preservation, honouring and passing down of the rich heritage and knowledge of the world’s oldest continuing culture.

Our government is dedicated to closing the gap in education and employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Providing more opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to achieve higher level qualifications is key to improving employment prospects, and other social and life outcomes.

Our government is actively working to increase national efforts through several key initiatives.

Last Friday, we held the second First Nations Vocational Education and Training Leadership Roundtable.

Participants talked about how this is a commitment, not an opportunity – an obligation we all have to work together – to design a VET sector that delivers on the vision for First Nations learners.

This involves all levels of government and touches all elements of the skills and training sector, leading to jobs.

Key themes from that meeting included recognising the value and expertise of community, building the capacity of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and ensuring mainstream Registered Training Organisations, like TAFEs, are culturally safe and accountable for improved First Nations learner outcomes.

Through the new five-year National Skills Agreement, working with States and Territories, we have committed to expand investment in the capability, sustainability and growth of the Aboriginal Community-Controlled and First Nations Owned training sector.  

We have also committed to grow the First Nations VET workforce and boost cultural capability of mainstream Registered Training Organisations.  

In fact, the Albanese Government is investing up to $214 million over five years to help deliver Closing the Gap commitments linked to progressing these priority reforms.

This includes $35 million to establish and manage a nationally networked VET policy partnership to work on national training policy and programs for First Nations people. 

We have also seen a strong uptake of our Fee-Free TAFE initiative by First Nations students.

Last year, Fee-Free TAFE removed financial barriers to enrolment for over 355,000 Australians.

That included almost 24,000 First Nations students, around 6.7% of total enrolments.

Across all training providers, First Nations students were also more likely to be enrolled in Certificate III courses, at around 45% compared with 36% for all students.

That’s more First Nations students gaining skills for good jobs in sectors where employers need workers.

However, too many First Nations people still don’t have access to the skills required to undertake vocational education and training.

And the barriers they face, we are determined to break down together.

It’s estimated 40% of First Nations adults lack the foundation skills - literacy, numeracy, and digital skills - to gain better jobs and participate fully in society.

This figure is estimated to rise to 70% in remote communities.

So, from July 1 this year, we’re investing $436 million to improve access to foundation skills training for all Australians seeking to improve their language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy.

And we’re removing some of the barriers to accessing this training, including the requirement to be a registered job seeker.

We also know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a unique set of challenges when it comes to literacy and numeracy issues.

To address this, we have consulted with First Nations people and redesigned the delivery of foundation skills training to reflect what works best for Indigenous communities.

From July 1 we will be providing $46 million to support up to 2,000 First Nations people with access to whole-of-community language, literacy, numeracy, and digital skills training through place-based grants.

This Indigenous specific stream follows consultation with Indigenous representatives through the Foundation Skills Advisory Group and is an example of the Albanese Government delivering policy working with First Nations Australians.

Indigenous Australians will be able to choose to access mainstream services or engage with one of the newly funded First Nations specific providers.

We’re also investing $30 million to work with First Nations communities and organisations to design and establish a network of up to 7 Remote Training Hubs in Central Australia.

These hubs will give people in remote communities access to training in the skills they need so they can be employed locally in areas of demand.

Mentors and local community workers will engage directly with the hubs to support learning and align training offerings with job opportunities.

Two hubs are expected to be delivered in the first phase – at Yuendumu and Ntaria, in the Northern Territory.

These hubs will be operational from 1 July next year.

The Albanese Government is also providing $1.2 million in seed funding to increase the First Nations trainer and assessor workforce in the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation sector.

We need to see more First Nations people working in vocational education and training.

Because we know training led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people delivers better outcomes.

This funding will ensure we have the trainers to grow the First Nations health workforce, including through 500 new First Nations health traineeships we have committed to deliver.

Our vision is clear: a future where every Australian has the skills and confidence to pursue their dreams, whether that means advancing their career or contributing to their community in other meaningful ways.

We are working to make this vision a reality.

The work we do is driven by collaboration and guided by the voices of Indigenous Australians in true partnership.

Together, we can break down barriers and empower every individual to achieve their full potential.

Thank you.