Posted by Doug Sutton on Sep 11, 2019
Our Guest Speaker Patricia Wilkinson with Bob Willis (bro-in-law) and President David Pyke
Bob introduced our guest speaker Patricia Wilkinson who has an extensive employment history in Public Administration. Patricia is the Senior Advisor for the National Indigenous Australia's Agency set up to ensure fair and equitable economic and social participation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
Patricia has worked in Economic Development, National Parks, Regional Manager of Tourism Western New South Wales, AusIndustry, and Riverina Regional Tourism. She has a Masters in Economics and Regional Development, has sat on several boards and is passionate about building regional economies.
Patricia began by an acknowledgement of country. She said this is now well accepted into our culture and is a sign of a heightened awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Culture across Australia.
When asked how many Indigenous Australians of the Year there have been, we could manage to name only two or three. There have been nine:
Lionel Rose (1981), Yvonne Goolagong (1971), Galarrwuy Yunupingu (1978), Neville Bonner (1979, Lois O'Donoghue (1984), Mandawuy Yunupingu (1992), Cathy Freeman (1998), Michael Dodson (2009), and Adam Goodes (2014)
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Progress against the Closing the Gap Targets 

There are currently seven Closing the Gap targets.
Only two targets, early childhood education and Year 12 attainment, are on track to be met.
  1. The target to halve the gap in child mortality rates by 2018 is not on track. Since the target baseline (2008), Indigenous child mortality rates have declined by 10 per cent (this is not statistically significant) but the gap has not narrowed as the non-Indigenous rate has declined at a faster rate.
  2. The target to have 95 per cent of Indigenous four year olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025 is on track. In 2017, 95 per cent of Indigenous four year olds were enrolled in early childhood education.
  3. The target to close the gap in school attendance by 2018 is not on track. Attendance rates for Indigenous students have not improved between 2014 and 2018 (around 82 per cent in 2018) and remain below the rate for non-Indigenous students (around 93 per cent).
  4. The target to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031 is not on track. Between 2010-12 and 2015-17, Indigenous life expectancy at birth improved by 2.5 years for Indigenous males and by 1.9 years for Indigenous females (both not statistically significant), which has led to a small reduction in the gap.
  5. The target to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment or equivalent by 2020 is on track.
  6. The target to halve the gap in reading and numeracy by 2018 is not on track.
  7. The target to halve the gap in employment by 2018 is not on track.

Ken Wyatt

Minister Ken Wyatt AM was sworn in as Australia’s first Indigenous member of a federal cabinet as the Minister for Indigenous Australians in May. A Noongar, Yamatji and Wongi man from Western Australia, Minister Wyatt had previously served as a senior public servant and a schoolteacher.
His current priorities for the Agency include improving futures for young Indigenous Australians, addressing the high Indigenous suicide rate, increasing education and ensuring employment outcomes - real jobs post education (transitioning from school to work). He has also emphasised the importance of a Voice to Parliament and working towards constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians.
He has said that our focus is to listen to the people; humanising and localising our responses with local conversations.

NIAA – formally PM&C

Shortly after the last election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the establishment of a new National Indigenous Australians Agency to ensure there is clear accountability on important issues such as Closing the Gap. The Agency will keep First Nations' priorities at the heart of Government but will provide more autonomy and authority to deliver a coordinated cross-portfolio approach to the Government's agenda for First Australians. It commenced 1 July 2019.
The NIAA comprises the functions formerly performed by the Indigenous Affairs Group within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It will provide more autonomy and authority to coordinate across the Commonwealth, work with Indigenous partners and the states and territories to achieve positive outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
Along with the appointment of the Hon. Ken Wyatt AM, MP as the first Aboriginal Cabinet Minister and Minister for Indigenous Australians, the establishment of the NIAA signals an exciting future ahead for Indigenous Affairs.
I am currently the Senior Advisor for the National Indigenous Australia’s Agency (NIAA).  Background in regional economic development. The work of NIAA is to ensure fair and equitable economic and social participation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. My work involves setting the strategic direction for the Western NSW region with a focus on economic prosperity, collaboration and working in partnership with communities

Foundations for the Future

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s strong connection to family, land and culture forms the foundation for social, economic and individual wellbeing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are of value to our community, across levels of government, business and the non-profit sector.
The Closing the Gap targets set in 2008 were ambitious and complex. We have learned key lessons from the past eleven years and identified critical key elements including:
  1. Working in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to drive sustainable, systemic change.
a.This encompasses the principles of working with and not for and adopt the mantra of Aboriginal communities ‘nothing about us without us’.
b.We consult with the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly, the Three Rivers Regional Assembly and the Riverina Murray Regional Alliance and CWPs
  1. Using a strengths-based, community-led approach to share responsibility and enable change for families and communities. (no longer about deficits)
  1. Working with state and territory governments to ensure a cohesive approach when providing services for First Australians.
    1.  For instance, we work with DPC in Wilcannia.
  1. Strengthening policy decision making by establishing a cohesive, robust evidence base.  

Our Region

Western New South Wales covers more than 570 thousand square kilometres (571,996). The region is geographically broad and diverse. It includes the large regional centres of Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Albury/Wodonga, Bathurst, Griffith and Orange. These areas are experiencing significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population growth.
Western NSW has 21 % of the State’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, more than 45 thousand people. The region’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is comparatively young with 48% under the age of 20 and is expected to grow at a consistent rate throughout the region.
In Wagga, Aboriginal people have a much larger proportion of 5-24 yo compared to the mainstream 43% compared to 27% for the mainstream population.
Fundamentally our approach to focusing on Economic Prosperity is underpinned by the following data and trends:
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander unemployment rate in Wagga Wagga is 15%, compared to 5.1 % for the non-indigenous population.
  • There are currently skills shortages and challenges meeting workforce demand due to long lead times, lack of experience and training and qualification requirements.
  • Aboriginal people are underrepresented in business. Successful Aboriginal entrepreneurship not only creates new business opportunities but provides heightened opportunities for Aboriginal peoples to be employed in those businesses.  In Wagga 17 Aboriginal people are self-employed (1.4%) compared to 1531 non-Aboriginal people (5.1%).
We currently manage 140 contracts across 87 Providers. (including employment providers, safety and wellbeing land and environment)
We deliver funding agreements by maintaining relationships, building the capacity of Indigenous organisations and undertaking grants management.
National contracts are also held with NIAA for example Clontarf Foundation, Girls Academy and IBA.
However, we only represent 7 % of the total Indigenous spend, so our role is becoming more around facilitation and influence to bring about change.

Place-based Work            

The Place Based Practice Framework is key to our work and how we partner with community. It enables us to fit our policy and delivery responses to the characteristics and needs of a “place” to achieve maximum impact.
We operate through a place-based, citizen-centric, strengths-based model, allowing us to collaborate with influence and focus on creating impacts. This includes working with Indigenous Australians and their communities and leadership to design and deliver policies and programs that acknowledge local and regional contexts and needs.
Our place-based work has included:
  • Echuca Moama focusing on the bridge construction and associated opportunities  
  • Griffith especially around a group called Grow Our Own.

Indigenous Procurement Policy

The Indigenous Procurement Policy was introduced in 2015 to stimulate Indigenous entrepreneurship and business development, providing Indigenous Australians with more opportunities to participate in the economy.
The Indigenous business sector is dominated by small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs). These enterprises are 100 times more likely to employ Indigenous people than non-Indigenous enterprises. The policy focuses effort on these enterprises to drive improvements in Indigenous economic development and Indigenous employment.
The Policy has three key components:
  1. A target for purchasing from Indigenous enterprises
  2. A mandatory-set aside to direct some contracts to Indigenous enterprises
  3. Minimum Indigenous participation  (direct employment) requirements for certain contracts
2012/13 - $6.2 million in contracts was awarded to just 30 Indigenous businesses
Since 2015, 1500 Indigenous businesses have been awarded 12 000 government contracts worth $ 2 billion.
We have now introduced a target of 3% of all contracts by value being held by Indigenous businesses by 2027.
An example of the success of our involvement with the IPP:
  1. Dubbo EXPO and promotion of Supply Nation.
  • The Supply Nation Indigenous Business Trade Fair will be held at the Dubbo Regional Theatre and Convention Centre on Wednesday 25 September from 9:30am -12:30pm. This is a B2B event and we currently have 30 Indigenous businesses registered to attend.
  1. Inland Rail  (Parkes to Narromine) Peak Hill
    • Of the 648 people who have worked on the project, 15 % (96/648) are Indigenous. 72 local business have bought supply to the project – 9 of which are Indigenous providing a total spend to Indigenous business of $3.4 million with Indigenous businesses.


Next time you hear a Welcome or Acknowledgment to Country think about:
  • What it means for our Country to have an Aboriginal culture that sets us apart from the rest of the world. It is our only unique feature that no other country can claim.
  • The contribution Aboriginal people make across all facets Australian life –not only art and culture, tourism and sport but also journalism, politics, education, defence, academia and the environment – we are seeing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the new rising middle class. 
  • Consider how providing fair and equitable economic and social participation will build a stronger economy taking full advantage of skills of an entire workforce providing opportunities that diversity in the workplace brings to business that makes sure we build regional economies that can grow and prosper.
A vote of thanks was given by John Ireland who said how enlightened he was by the talk, which reflected the reaction of all members. He wished Patricia well in her endeavours, conceding that there are a raft of issues still to be addressed. Members showed their appreciation with applause.