ILC Keeping Aboriginal men in the long grass

Cultural wall sees Indigenous men miss welfare pay
Centrelink payments are the only income in NT's remote towns, but hundreds of young Aboriginal men are not pursuing the payments due to culture gaps.

 See this related article

This is yet another tragic story and description of Government instruments administering Aboriginal Affairs failing 'Due Diligence'. The hypocrisy of the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) to hound Sovereign Owners who have land handed back and then the ILC rides them into the ground with demands for observances of procedures in regards to insurance and Health and Safety, yet the ILC administrators themselves fail to observe their own demands of others.

It is time for a complete independent review of the ILC its functions and purpose, but this review must be carried out by independent First Nations people and a senior legal person.

Reuben Timothy, a young Borroloola man, hasn't been back to ILC in 8 months and appears to be completely forgotten about.

Mick Estens, Katherine, NT March 2013

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 Manager's 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 fed and the problems this causes affects 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 leave and the promise of 'real jobs' at the end of their Traineeship.

These ILC Aboriginal Trainees performed their duties well, 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 their own individual dreams are pushed aside when they are no longer needed, or their Certificate 2 in Agriculture is completed. Today the Trainees are sitting in Minyerri with their families and have been doing so since 10th December last year, and some a lot longer. The bulk of the trainees have only had one or two weeks work in many months.

Reuben Timothy on horseback and John Farrell standing. John is from the Minyerri community and an ILC trainee. He was left 'sitting down' for three months and then picked up a week after this story was first released in March.

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 won'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 has 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 such 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 employment 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 human resources should be Aboriginal. After all, it is the Indigenous Land Corporation.

So today, some ILC staff of the Training Department are sitting behind their desks in Adelaide, while others are flying around the country, staying in great Hotels and enjoying good food and a beer. These young Aboriginal Trainees in Minyerri, are suffering family stress, hunger, a feeling of desperation, and are further disillusioned by empty promises.

Republished by Sovereign Union on behalf of the young men who are still waiting ...