Mining billionaire Andrew Forrest says existing Indigenous jobs training programs are not working and that a different approach is needed.
Mr Forrest, the chairman of mining company Fortescue Metals, will chair his first meeting today as head of the Federal Government’s review into Indigenous training and employment.
The review was commissioned by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and will report back in April.
Mr Forrest has told Lateline he wants to see a move away from a welfare-driven system.
He says he hopes the review will come up with a new model that ensures Indigenous people are trained in areas of demand.
“So it’s a demand-driven model where the employers say what we need and we supply into that need,” he said.
“We don’t try and invent the market, we try and fill the existing market. That’s where we’ve been going wrong.
“If you look hard at the bleeding heart attitude to always throw money at issues, throw money at problems, what you’re in fact probably saying is you’re exercising a prejudice of low expectations.
“The existing system has been tried and disproved for decades and decades.”
Mr Forrest says Indigenous people can compete in any professional environment if they are given the opportunity.
He says there are solutions to breaking a reliance on welfare, and helping people to find and keep jobs.
“Statistically after six months, if an Indigenous or non-Indigenous person has come off welfare, even long-term welfare, and has stuck in that job for six months, then they’ve really broken in their own psychology the welfare reliance mentality,” he said.
“They’re up on their own two feet. They’re away and they’re paying tax and they’re contributors to society.”
Work to end slavery
Mr Forrest, meanwhile, spoke at a conference in Melbourne yesterday about ending slavery in countries like China and India.
He says he doesn’t believe companies would turn a blind eye to bad behaviour overseas even if it would be profitable.
“It was clear in the room that they all understood that forced labour and slavery is really bad for their businesses,” he said.
“And if they’re thinking of their shareholders, the last thing shareholders ever want to read is that their company has been involved in forced labour or slavery and it will impact their share price deleteriously, it’ll be negative on a company’s perception.
“So really, thinking of the stakeholders, you’ll stamp out slavery and forced labour wherever you can in your supply chains, and that’s the red balloon going up.
“And executives around Australia and around the world are watching that red balloon.”