Release type: Speech


Banaam - Our Connections, Our Futures symposium

**Check against delivery**

Thank you for the invitation to attend your symposium this morning.

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge:

• The Kombumerri Peoples of the Gold Coast, forming part of the Yugambah language region on whose land this gathering takes place.

• Luther Cora and the Yugambah Aboriginal dancers

• Kyle and Josh Slabb and the Slabb family from the Bundjalung and Yugambah peoples.

• Linda Biumaiwai as a Traditional Owner and today’s MC (Master of Ceremony).

• As well as all other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the room and the countries they belong to.

I also acknowledge:

  • Ms Meaghan Scanlon, the Queensland Assistant Minister for Tourism Industry Development, and

  • Mr Josh Slabb, Director of Banaam for the invitation to join you today.

It’s an honour to be here to talk about the value and importance of vocational education and training, and how it can lead to meaningful and sustainable employment.

I’m thrilled to be part of a regional event that is showing real innovation and leadership in building community collaboration and understanding, and delivering local solutions to meet local needs.

This year’s NAIDOC week theme, ‘Because of her, we can!’, acknowledges the generations of Indigenous women who have strived to preserve and pass on cultural skills and knowledge, and provides a fitting context for your symposium.

We all want to find the best ways to make sure our young people have the skills and the knowledge they need to make their own way in the world and to flourish.

To find the best ways to train and educate them, so they have the skills and capacity to take up the opportunities of the future.

And we want to ensure that businesses, organisations, employers and industry are in the best position to attract, train and retain a diverse and skilled workforce.

A very important part of this picture is the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the skills, knowledge and prosperity of our country.

I want to thank Banaam for the important work you do in building cultural competence across the community.

You are making organisations stronger, more adaptable, and more effective by equipping them with the understanding and practices required to attract Indigenous employees.

You are highlighting how to tap into their potential—teaching them how to integrate Indigenous ways of thinking and operating into their business practices.

Deep skill, knowledge and understanding of science and innovation is also a legacy that we have inherited from our rich Indigenous history.

Indigenous Australian cultures have always had complex and sophisticated knowledge of such things as:

  • land management,

  • sustainable farming practices,

  • the science of ecology,

  • nature,

  • astronomy,

  • weather and seasons,

  • medicine,

  • tools and craft skills,

  • as well as art, music and storytelling that remains alive after many thousands of generations.

And perhaps most importantly, you are building capacity to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to the right training and skills—to gain real skills for real careers.

Australia’s VET system: building on the legacy of the past, securing our future

Australia’s skilled workforce is one of the key historical drivers of our nation’s stability and prosperity.

In order for this to continue to be the case, we must ensure we continue to strengthen our already high-quality training system to propel future growth.

Our VET system is one of the key elements in this endeavour.

It is one of the best places to provide people with the skills they’ll need to find work, build careers, be self-sufficient, and contribute to the wellbeing of their communities.

As Assistant Minister for the VET sector, I am deeply passionate about reinvigorating VET to build upon the legacy of quality skills and training that we are so fortunate to have inherited from our far-sighted forebears.

This is indeed a remarkable legacy upon which to build.

And today I am proud all over the country the sector includes hundreds of thousands of committed, talented and hardworking people—as trainers, industry partners, students and administrators.

Every day, they make a wonderful contribution to our country and they deserve to know that their government has faith in their work, and in their sector.

They deserve to know that the government values the sector and is prepared to invest in VET.

The whole community deserves the reassurance that our VET sector will be restored to its rightful place as one of the best places to train and get real skills for real careers.

Championing our VET sector – the place to build skills for life

As such, the VET sector needs to be championed—because it has played such a vital role in Australia’s successes, and we want that to continue.

We want people to know that you can get some of the best training and the best opportunities for a rewarding career from studying in the VET sector.

After all, while Australia’s universities are world-class, university is not the path for everyone.

That’s why we’re working hard to restore VET to its rightful place at the centre of our towns, our regional centres–a valuable, viable and training option for many people.

And there are clear benefits at a personal, business and economic level in choosing a VET pathway.

80 per cent of VET graduates have a job soon after completing training and graduates in full time employment earn a median annual income of about $55,000.

The top ten occupations predicted to have the most jobs growth by 2020 are all in areas that require a VET qualification.

The significant investment that the government is making to build the VET sector back up to strength, to improve quality, transparency and accessibility—approximately $3 billion in 2018-19—reflects our faith in the sector to deliver.

The centerpiece of our efforts is one of Australia’s largest recruitment efforts for more apprentices–the Australian Government’s Skilling Australians Fund National Partnership Agreement.

This is a coordinated national response to recruit more apprentices over the next four years, and to address skills shortages. It will help the states and territories to recruit additional apprentices and trainees over and above their ‘business as usual’ baseline rates.

And it makes a priority of areas of need—occupations in demand; industries and sectors of future growth; trade apprenticeships in rural and regional areas and industries; and communities experiencing structural change.

Rural and regional areas are also one of our key priorities with the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network.

The network operates in around 400 locations nationally, and offers enhanced targeted support for employers and apprentices through quality pre-commencement advice and in-training support throughout the apprenticeship.

And this regional focus is important for the Gold Coast region as well, and for local Indigenous employment strategies.

Indigenous skills training – unleashing the potential of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through tailored solutions

The work of Banaam, and this symposium today, reminds us that Indigenous communities are leaders in orchestrating community-led solutions to their own economic and educational challenges.

Your approach provides us with a best-practice model that ought to be adapted all over the country.

Bringing people together is the key to building community capacity, and provides opportunities for matching training with the skills needs of your community.

Partnerships between local leaders, schools, industries and businesses, an awareness of cultural values, working closely with community to ensure that local needs are met—is a key principle of our VET reform program.

It is a principle and an approach that Indigenous communities can take a leadership role on.

Indigenous Australian students are continuing to thrive in the VET sector with high participation rates—in 2016 around 170,000 enrolments.

Queensland delivers nationally accredited VET to more Indigenous students than any other state or territory, providing VET to more than a third (39 per cent) of all Indigenous VET students in Australia.

And over 70 per cent of Indigenous VET students securing employment after qualification.

A great example is St Teresa’s College, in Abergowrie in Far North Queensland—a boys’ boarding school home to students from over 50 different remote Indigenous communities across Queensland, Northern Territory and the Torres Strait.

This school has built very productive relationships with local industry—manufacturing, agriculture, defence, for example—training organisations like TAFE Queensland and community leaders to drive a number of programs that train students in skills that will help them get local jobs after school.

Trades like building and carpentry, agricultural skills like mustering, animal husbandry, cropping, and the full range of defence skills are all available for students to start exploring during Years 11 and 12—and relationships formed are leading to apprenticeships and traineeships after school.

Very crucially this means that these skilled people can bring their training back to community to continue to help their communities to grow and prosper into the future.

I am very pleased today to formally release a series of videos and case studies which show just a few of the many innovative, locally-developed, locally-driven career education programs that are helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students develop skills, creating employment and career opportunities.

I would encourage you all to visit the Preparing Secondary Students for Work website on the My Skills website (—to take a look at the videos we have developed working with states and territories.

They tell some fantastic stories—local projects from Far North Queensland, to South Australia, to Western Australia.

Nhulunbuy High School in East Arnhem Land is another great example.

One of the most remote schools in Australia, but with a nicely integrated, targeted, flexible vocational education and training program that’s providing students with valuable training to help them get jobs and build careers.

It's an example of a local school working with a local training provider, with the support of local businesses and communities to make the most of opportunities for local students.

Students are being trained in skills that will benefit the community and that also offer a real pathway to local work with a Certificate in Maritime Operations.

Students who travel to school by boat from remote places, like Elcho Island and Milingimbi, are developing skills in maritime safety and can log sea hours which count toward their course requirements, while also building their knowledge of traditional culture and practices.

They exemplify what we are aiming to achieve in our National Career Education Strategy—how to improve career education in schools, engage young people in their learning, and be active in considering their career pathways beyond school.

I encourage you to share these videos and help promote the message that VET and skills are important and help open up many doors to many different career opportunities.

These kind of creative, localised programs is what a high-quality VET sector is all about.

Another good example is the $5.1 million provided to pilot the Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) model at 14 sites across Australia—which is part of the Government’s plan to build Australia’s STEM capability and prepare the next generation of young Australians for the jobs of the future.

P-TECH involves the establishment of long-term partnerships between schools, industry and tertiary education providers and includes mentoring and providing pathways from school to further education, training and employment.

At the Top End P-TECH site at Casuarina Senior College in Darwin, where approximately 25 per cent of students identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, education and industry partners are implementing strategies that encourage and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to engage in the P‑TECH pilot program.

I am expecting more such innovative, locally-driven projects to proliferate, as communities are empowered and more partnerships are forged between industry and business, communities and education and training institutions.

It is a very exciting aspect of this work to see change happening, and to feel the groundswell of energy and commitment from communities.

As I’ve made clear today, the Government recognises the critical role of VET to Australia’s economy.

Promoting VET in the community as a real and positive choice for all Australians is one of my key priorities.

The revitalisation of Australia’s VET sector is underway, and while there is still work to do, the signs are positive.

The initiatives that are now in place will enable further progress to be made towards achieving better education, training and employment outcomes for Indigenous people.

Restoring confidence in the VET sector is key to boosting future student numbers, benefiting students with a meaningful and sustainable career and benefiting employers with a work ready workforce.

And the more we work together, building capacity and understanding, focusing on local solutions to local needs and creating the right environment for innovation and collaboration—the more we will ensure that every community has the skills and capability they need to flourish and thrive.

All the best for a productive and fruitful symposium and I look forward to the contribution of Banaam into the future.