ILC keeping Aboriginal men In The Long Grass

Today in the Northern Territory along the Roper Bar road on the Aboriginal Alawa people owned Station of Warrigundu you will find no activity. The part time Aboriginal station staff was sat down in early December last year by the lease holders of the property, the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC). While sitting down for two or three months over a wet period is nothing new in the top end, the pay systems the Aboriginal boys operate under within the ILC is. The permanent ILC staff operates under a work agreement that gives them a 37 hour week, holiday pay, overtime rates and general benefits we all have come to enjoy in this county. The Aboriginal station workers are employed and operate under a different system that the ILC calls National Indigenous Pastoral Enterprise (NIPE). NIPE has the Aboriginal boys working a minimum 50 hour week before any benefits come their way. The boys can build up Time Off In Lieu (TOIL) up to 5 days and only more with the Managers permission, but they cannot bank more than 20 days. When you are being sat down for a wet period of 60 – 90 days it is hard to keep your family feed and the problems this causes affect the entire Aboriginal Community.

In February 2012, several Aboriginal Trainee stockmen from Minyerri signed on with the ILC to be taught a range of skills needed for working on Stations in the top end. The work contract they signed is for 12 months of real on the job training including four weeks of leave and the promise of “real jobs” at the end of their Traineeship.

These ILC Aboriginal Trainees preformed their duties to a good quality, some exceptionally well.
During the year the Trainees and I were kept busy mustering and branding the 15000 head of ILC station cattle on Warrigundu.

Unfortunately for these young fit men with dreams once they are not needed, or the Certificate 2 in Agriculture is finished, so are they. Today these Trainees are sitting in Minyerri with their families and have been doing so since 10th December last year, some a lot longer. The bulk of the trainees have had one or two weeks work in the last five months as two of the boys got to go and look at ILC operations in West Australia and because of the lack of skilled Trainee Supervisor cattlemen willing to work for the ILC, the other boys had to be sat down.

I have visited the Trainees several times this year and their family life, sanity, and belief in their futures are all vanishing fast. One girl who is a partner to a Trainee has been treated for thinking of suicide as she feels let down. These young Aboriginal men now cannot get Centrelink benefits as they need a separation form signed by the ILC to release them, but the ILC don’t release them as eventually, they will pick them up and a graduation ceremony will take place, then they will tell us and their ILC Directors what a good job ILC Training has done. The young Aboriginal boys could take action against the ILC through Industrial Relations, but they know the chances of getting employment on their own property leased by the ILC after that would be nil. One boy beat the system and has found employment with CDEP as his children were starving and he had to find work and money.

The parents and grandparents, wives and girlfriends are all looking after these virtually unemployed men caught in a catch 22. All the ILC have told them is that they have generator problems at the station and that is why they cannot be re employed. Even if this is true, apart from the fact three months is amply time to fix the problem, the Trainees live 6 kilometres from the Station and could be picked up and dropped off daily.

It is fast looking like the ILC Training Department is taking advantage of the less fortunate Aboriginal men from Minyerri. The forms of injustice put upon these young Trainees are so that in the long run the ILC Training Department can keep statistics looking good and costs down at the expense of the Aboriginal students and their families way of life.

With no large amount of employability outcomes since the inception of the ILC training Aboriginal men into station work, it is hard to see why they keep getting large amounts of money from Government to keep this Training ongoing. I doubt there would be one Aboriginal Station Manager, Overseer or Head Stockmen in employment in the country that the ILC trained and got there on their own. Where are the hundreds of ILC Certificate 2 and 3 qualified Aboriginal men now? It is time for ILC to dump the senior people within the Training Department and replace them with true believers that will get these men employed. At the least, by now in a Corporation such as the ILC, all staff in the Training Department and HR should be Aboriginal. After all, it is the Indigenous Land Corporation.

So today, while some staff of the Training Department of the ILC is sitting in Adelaide, others flying around the country, staying in great Hotels and enjoying good food and a beer, Trainees, my young Aboriginal boys in Minyerri, are suffering family stress, hunger, a feel of desperation, and a disbelief in what ILC promised them.

Mick Estens 0428936305



Mick Estens