Newslines Radio: Creating jobs and a better economy in remote communities
- Nathan Ramsay
- Zane Hughes, General Manager,
Kalkadoon Community, Mt Isa, QLD
Rowan Foley, General Manager, Aboriginal Carbon Fund, QLD
Jonathon Kneebone, Northern Land Council, NT
Katie Kiss, Director, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Team, Australian Human Rights Commission, NSW
PRESENTER: Hi, I’m Nathan Ramsay and you’re listening to Newslines Radio, a weekly program produced by the Australian Government on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.
Out in remote Australia, unemployment continues to be one of the big issues facing our mob. But there are a growing number of communities that are finding new ways to create jobs and a better future for their families.
HUGHES: The Kalkadoon people have a history, it’s in their DNA, to be entrepreneurial and to work hard and to produce something and that’s why we’re finding it quite easy to allow Kalkadoon people to realise their place in the economy of Australia and not to be welfare recipients.
PRESENTER: That was Waanyi man Zane Hughes, general manager of the Kalkadoon Community in Mt Isa in Queensland. More from Zane later.
One new idea remote communities are using to tackle unemployment is carbon farming. Rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have led to climate change. As part of its fight against climate change, the Australian Government has set up the Carbon Farming Initiative, which will allow land owners to earn money by storing carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the land.
To explain carbon farming further, here’s Butchella man Rowan Foley, general manager of the Aboriginal Carbon Fund, talking to Newslines’ Trevor Ellis.
FOLEY: Under the Australian Government scheme, the Carbon Farming Initiative, you can get money now for looking after country, by producing carbon credits. The way you produce carbon credits is through the Burn Country, the Savannah Burning program that a lot of people may have heard about, or rehabilitating country, which is the environmental plantings but there are other scientific methodologies which are being developed as well.
Basically it’s about looking after country.
ELLIS: What can Indigenous people in communities get out of this?
FOLEY: There’s enormous amounts of opportunities out there. People might still want to run a bit of cattle, people can still run tourism and now you can also do carbon. So it’s another option on the table. You don’t have to do the whole lot. You could say “one third of my property, one third of our estate would probably be good for our carbon project so on one third of it we might do that.”
PRESENTER: Rowan says that the most important advice for communities is to ensure traditions are not trampled over for the sake of profit.
FOLEY: We need to follow the ways of the old people in terms of decision making. If there’s an income, we need to distribute that income. We need to make sure our sacred sites are cared for and looked after and these are our standards that we want to do business.
PRESENTER: That was Rowan Foley, general manager of the Aboriginal Carbon Fund.
One organisation that is already working closely with communities to make money from carbon farming is the Northern Land Council. Here’s the NLCs Jonathon Kneebone talking to Trevor Ellis about carbon farming.
KNEEBONE: The carbon market is well placed to take hold in the Northern Territory because of the high rainfall around the coast and that’s nicely combined with Aboriginal land that is also located to a large extent around the coast. So huge areas of the Northern Territory have potential to participate in this market for Aboriginal people.
ELLIS: How will the Darwin program transition over the years?
KNEEBONE: People were seeing huge late dry season fires come through western Arnhem Land, obliterating the landscape. In terms of stopping that, people worked out that if you created firebreaks and then did mosaic patchwork burning behind those firebreaks, then it stopped those late season fires and that aligns nicely with traditional land management practices where people used to go out early in the dry season and do patchwork burns.
And now we have the Carbon Farming Initiative, which has the potential for large companies like Conoco Phillips to offset tax liabilities by gaining carbon credits. They already pay money to Northern Territory Government for the services delivered by ranger groups to carry out the project.
ELLIS: What will they get out of it, this two-fold effect?
KNEEBONE: Rangers presently, and of course rangers and Traditional Owners are often the same thing, getting funds to carry out this land management activities so people are getting jobs, an opportunity to pass on knowledge from elders to younger people, so beneficial cultural and economic outcomes already. In terms of what Traditional Owners are getting at present, they’re getting environmental service, land is getting looked after and those late season fires are being stopped that damaged the flora and fauna. It makes hunting better and makes land look better and healthier.
PRESENTER: You’re listening to Newslines Radio. Today, we’re talking about employment opportunities for remote communities. As we’ve heard, carbon farming is a potential money maker but experts like Katie Kiss, director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Team at the Australian Human Rights Commission, want to ensure community leaders think about issues other than just creating jobs in their community.
KISS: There’s an overarching human rights issue with carbon farming. It’s basically an economic response to the issue of climate change and the threats we’re going to face as a result of that. Those threats include forcible removal from land; we’ve already got people in the Torres Strait being inundated with king tides that is taking country from people. In addition to that we’re going to be required to provide our intellectual knowledge and intellectual property and cultural heritage in developing responses to climate change and they are going to result in things like the Carbon Farming Initiative.
The focus on economic responses needs to be balanced with the cultural responses as well and making sure that it’s not only economically sustainable but also culturally, environmentally and socially sustainable. Our people base the responses they’re developing on their cultural backgrounds and their cultural ways of dealing with country. I think those things need to be made sure that the integrity of culture is maintained through these economic responses.
PRESENTER: Katie is taking particular interest in carbon farming as she has been talking with her own mob, the Kaanju people from Cape York, about the opportunities arising from carbon farming.
KISS: There’s 500 companies waiting to access the carbon credits that will be made available through our land management processes and the way we manage country, to enable them to offset. So there will be financial benefits to us in terms of agreements that are coming up. I think also there is another stream of where Aboriginal people have an opportunity to come to the table and negotiate outcomes for themselves, whether that be financial outcomes or additional rangers for their native title management and country management.
PRESENTER: That was Katie Kiss from the Australian Human Rights Commission talking about the economic opportunities that have arisen due to carbon farming.
Of course, this is just one of a number of employment possibilities that Indigenous communities are getting involved in. Earlier we heard Zane Hughes from the Kalkadoon Community in Mt Isa talk about the Kalkadoon’s entrepreneurial spirit. Here’s Zane talking to Newslines’s Trevor Ellis about the Kalkadoon’s strategy for creating jobs for their mob.
HUGHES: Our role and objective is to identify economic opportunities within country for Kalkadoon people, to allow Kalkadoon people to realise their place in the economy of Australia and not to be welfare recipients.
ELLIS: Tell me about the economic model you’ve got and some of the enterprises that are happening through you guys?
HUGHES: The model is, it’s called a Kalkadoon accredited business unit. They come to us, they get accredited. We help them get what’s called a pre-accreditation with mining companies or with developers or providers in the region. The idea is the Kalkadoon enterprises will tender for a contract and if we win that tender, then we split it up amongst these businesses. Or if a tender comes to us that we’re not interested in or don’t have the capacity to undertake, we can then feed it on to these guys, but supply it with a heap of expertise and knowledge and framework and help them tender for the document against an open market. We have a 19-year-old, with his own business and that to us is showing that this model works.
ELLIS: And what are some of those markets. Obviously they revolve around mining companies?
HUGHES: We’ve got a plumbing company, with three young blokes and they’re providing services out on a mine site right now. We have a vacuum truck and transport company, so they’re pumping out tanks and sumps at the mines but they’re also doing commercial premises in town. We have a business which supplies cranes, graders, water trucks, D9 dozers for civil and mining. We’ve got another company that has within it a building arm, a labour hire company, security association with a major, this is one of our really good ones, it has an alliance relationship with ACG, the second biggest private owned security company in Australia, with 4,500 staff Australia-wide. It’s a little Aboriginal entity in Mt Isa owned by one Aboriginal Traditional Owner and one non-Indigenous person doing business with the second biggest security company in Australia to provide security services.
That’s the model. Wherever we can, whatever we can, we’ll do it.
ELLIS: Talking about the model, is that something you’ve come up with yourself or have you gotten inspiration from other communities, other people, other businesses?
HUGHES: We didn’t go looking for a model. We just sat down and we’ve, myself and the applicants and the families, have seen what’s failed in the past and we said “well, if that fails, what would success look like?”. That’s what we did. We designed for the Kalkadoon people, a business model that is Kalkadoon centred. We didn’t take something off the shelf and try to fit it to something. I’m sure that we’re not Robinson Crusoe, there’s a lot more smarter Murris out there than me and I’m sure in some form there are existing businesses or models like this around the place.
ELLIS: What advice do you have for other people about getting the best business model from your own experiences?
HUGHES: Spend your time getting advice. Talk to other Indigenous people about their business. Go back to your family and say this is what it means. If your family can accept that, then you’re half way there. If they can’t accept that, don’t start it, because you will fail. Failing is part of learning and growing.
PRESENTER: That was Zane Hughes from the Kalkadoon community talking to Newslines’ Trevor Ellis about the community’s success in creating businesses and jobs. Of course, Kalkadoon is just one example of remote Indigenous communities coming up with great solutions to increase employment and economic prosperity.
Visit our website indigenous.gov.au to read other examples of communities and individuals succeeding in business.
While you’re there, you can also read our Indigenous Newslines magazine, follow Closing the Gap on Twitter, and friend Indigenous Newslines on Facebook.
I’m Nathan Ramsey. Catch you next week.