Linda Burney hits Closing the Gap with new $707m jobs spend

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The federal government will invest $707m in a new jobs program for remote Australia that it says will deliver 3000 jobs and better living conditions for Indigenous Australians over the next three years.

The program replaces the former government’s Community Development Program and will be designed and implemented in partnership with the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations in the second half of 2024.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney said the new program would be grounded in “self-determination” and would let local communities decide what jobs would be created.

“For too long people in remote communities have missed out on economic opportunities and have been stuck in cycles of poverty,” she said.

“This is about putting communities in the driver’s seat to create local jobs and businesses.

“Rates of unemployment in remote communities are unacceptable and this is the first step in turning that around.”

The spending announcement comes as the government grapples with how to meet targets 7 and 8 from the 19 Closing the Gap metrics designed to improve life outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

Target 7, which aims to increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 15-24 years who are in employment, education or training to 67 per cent by 2031, is not on track, the government said.

Target 8, which aims to increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 25-64 who are employed to 62 per cent by 2031 is not on track in the NT, where a high proportion of Indigenous people live in remote communities.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 40 per cent of First Nations people of aged between 15 and 64 years were not in the labour force in 2021.

The numbers are sharper in the more remote parts of the country, with some 61 per cent of Indigenous Australian not in the labour force across the Northern Territory compared to 26 per cent in the ACT.

As part of the investment, a $185m Community Jobs and Business Fund will be set up for local and community-owned businesses to apply for money for equipment and capital.

The program will cover all CDP regions in Australia, which engulf all of Australia outside the major cities from Central and Western Queensland through to most of Western Australia.

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