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HomeIssue 7Land rich, jobs poor: Indigenous work around The Rock

Land rich, jobs poor: Indigenous work around The Rock

2586 RISE-Ngurratjuta 3By ERWIN CHLANDA
Aboriginal people own the Uluru National Park and the Indigenous Land Corporation owns the Ayers Rock Resort but the employment picture at Mutitjulu, the small township at the base of The Rock and the place where visitors stayed in pre-resort days, remains shocking.
Ironically the numbers for Docker River, population 355 and 230 kilometres to the west, and hardly a playground for global travellers, look a lot better.
Here are the comparative figures, with Mutitjulu, population 323, mentioned first: Full time employed 36% vs 63%; part-time 32% vs 11% and unemployed 25% vs 18%.
The corresponding figures for Australia, 58%, 30% and 7%, show that massively remote Docker River isn’t all that far behind the nation in full time jobs (2016 Census figures).
The Federal Government has made endless attempts, mostly hapless, to fix the problem with jobs for the dole programs. One their latest versions in the region started around The Rock about six months ago.
The Sydney-based company Angus Knight says it has 241 participants in the “caseload” which also includes Docker River and Imanpa, 60% of them men.
The resort has about 1000 staff, a fifth of them Indigenous, including 60 trainees.
2586 RISE-Ngurratjuta 2Angus Knight will not disclose how much it gets paid for its service: “The Government pays providers on an outcomes basis depending on the successful placement of job seekers,” says a spokeswoman.
“These provider payments are not made public by the Government, hence our inability to disclose this information.
“The Australian Government doesn’t provide a breakdown of the expenditure on a region by region basis.
“However the CDP is delivered in 60 regions covering more than 1000 communities across Australia, and the total expenditure is estimated to be $1.6 billion over four years from 2014–15 to 2017–18.”
Angus Knight at The Rock collaborates with the local Aboriginal-owned company RISE-Ngurratjuta which owns the Glen Helen Resort and the Tilmouth Well Roadhouse.
So far 14 former participants in the program have found work outside the program at: Uluru Segway tours, Mutitjulu Store, Outback Stores, Docker River Store and Black Cat Civil (one each); Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation (two), Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park (three) and MPH Contractors – NG Labour Hire (four).
The spokeswoman says there are currently eight vacancies at the Voyages – Ayers Rock Resort and there is “endless recruitment” for Parks: “The challenge is finding literate people that are able to pass Certificate II in Tourism.”
2586 RISE-Ngurratjuta 1The participants are currently required to work 25 hours a week which is likely to be reduced to 20 hours, so that they qualify for “income support payment from government”.
It’s not really work, says the spokeswoman, but  “work like activities.
“Women are sewing, cooking and running small markets selling products made within the activities.
“Men are building furniture from timber and steel; they oversee productivity of a nursery and community garden; and they are erecting clothes lines in elderly people’s houses.
“Our projects in Docker River include a number of handiwork projects, including sewing, art work and cooking,” says the spokewoman.
“Sewing has proven most popular. Female participants have learned how to use sewing machines to create pillow cases, curtains, and clothing that they are able to keep for themselves, or sell.
“They keep all proceeds from the sale of any item. The intention is to develop more activities that offer income generating potential for our participants.”
The spokeswoman says estimated attendance in the program’s activities in Mutitjulu is 80%, in Imanpa 20% and Docker River 40%.
Images from a RISE-Ngurratjuta video.
People on work for the dole programs are not counted as employed in the labour force survey. There is a prompt in the survey which confirms whether someone is on a work for the dole program.
Being on a work for the dole program does not categorise a person as unemployed, for them to be categorised as unemployed they must meet the below criteria –
Unemployed are …
Persons aged 15 years and over who were not employed during the reference week, and:
▪ had actively looked for full time or part time work at any time in the four weeks up to the end of the reference week and were available for work in the reference week; or
▪ were waiting to start a new job within four weeks from the end of the reference week and could have started in the reference week if the job had been available then.


  1. I worked there as housing officer, all lies they say they are looking for literate people.
    Let’s look at the white rangers that are given the positions over the traditional men or women.
    The point is that these Aboriginals can speak good English and they have the knowledge to talk to the tourist who understand.
    While there was a ranger’s position, applicants were a white young woman from Sydney and a 40 year old traditional man who spoke good English and a cultural lawman for the land.
    I knew the ranger who was on the interview panel and he told me the law man missed out on one question.
    My question back to him was what does this woman know about Uluru?
    No, we are going to employ this man for six months to teach her all about law and culture and for her to lead the tourist so they will understand all about Uluru. What a lot of crap.
    The moral and the truth is that they did not want this man living over the hill in the ranger village. Racist.

  2. Arunta Man: Not knowing processes or more importantly the facts as to why decisions are made and saying “racist” does not help anyone and does nothing but incite racism itself.

  3. As a local ex tour guide and operator accredited for Kakadu and Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Parks I am 100% behind Arunta man as I have witnessed too often “our local tour guides” advertised by tour companies new to the Territory, from interstate and overseas telling BS to the tourists.
    Their only knowledge is what they have learn in the accreditation course run by Charles Darwin University.
    It is a excellent course but does not replace local knowledge and years of living on and off the land.
    I will never forget the time I was asked to accompany a guide as a language interpreter finding out that this guide had never set foot where we were taking the clients!

  4. You’ve got to want to work and this isn’t a strong point amongst Aboriginal people. Why would you work when you have a constant stream of money coming in?


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