Dungala Kaiela Oration 2016

The nation’s top public servant – the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet – came to Shepparton to deliver the 8th Annual Dungala Kaiela Oration at the Rumbalara Football Club on Wednesday, 17 August 2016. Secretary Mr Martin Parkinson delivered the address detailing the economic aspirations and futures of indigenous peoples of Australia.


The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary wants public servants to question what the department does: what did we get right and what did we get wrong? And why?

Government needs to commit to the economic development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples based on accumulated knowledge, Mr Parkinson told. “We know that the keys to self-reliance, independence and improved social outcomes are: higher levels of employment; Indigenous business ownership; and the opportunity to use and develop culture, knowledge and land assets to generate wealth.”


 Uncle Col Walker gives a Smoking Ceremony prior to commencement of the Oration

“We also need to move beyond a transactional approach to business, to one of true partnership. From one where the relationship is characterised by applications being submitted and considered against program criteria; contracts set; funds delivered; and reports provided — in other words, Indigenous people operating in the bureaucrat’s world.

“We want to move to a new approach with a focus on data; on evidence; on true community engagement; on flexibility; on accountability to the people being affected — an approach where bureaucrats operate in your world. To successfully deliver this agenda we need to focus more strongly, at every stage, on building the evidence base and evaluating our initiatives.

Targets are important, too, says the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Parkinson acknowledged that there is still much work to be done to get them right:

“While not everyone is a fan, well-designed, evidence-based targets developed in partnership with Aboriginal people are a powerful way of focusing Government action. For a national agenda such as Closing the Gap — with far-reaching, long-term implications for Indigenous policy — genuine engagement, partnership and collaboration with Aboriginal people are crucial. A collaboration and partnership built on honesty, respect and on shared responsibility and accountability.”


Martin Parkinson, Secretary of Dept of Prime Minister and Cabinet delivers the Dungala Kaiela Oration

The Productivity Commission says there must be more rigour in indigenous program evaluation. If we are to see improvements in outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians we need to move further into the detail, examining which policies and programs work better than others and why. Our current focus is on setting targets and monitoring outcomes. This must be complemented by evaluation.”

Mr Parkinson went on to elaborate on the work of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in placing indigenous Australians in employment. Through PM&C programmes, we assist Indigenous Australians into employment opportunities and, since September 2013, more than 41,000 employment placements have been made. A big driver is the new Employment Parity Initiative, where we challenge big business to reach parity in employment.

Partnering with some of Australia’s largest employers, the Initiative aims to get an additional 20,000 Indigenous Australians into real jobs by 2020. Eleven of Australia’s biggest employers have committed to the Employment Parity Initiative, including Woolworths, Accor Pacific, Compass Group and MSS Security—securing more than 7,200 new jobs.

These companies have enormous buying power and we will be working with them to increase the rate of purchasing from Indigenous enterprises and build stronger Indigenous procurement policies into their own supply chains, he said.

The Government’s own Indigenous Procurement Policy is also a driver of Indigenous employment—particularly as Indigenous businesses are 100 times more likely to employ Indigenous people. This policy has seen contracts with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned businesses increase from around $6 million in 2012-13, to more than $195 million in 2015-16—and that is just in its first 11 months of operation.

This is surely encouraging for the work of the Algabonyah Community Cabinet, and the Regional Action Plan, which seeks to create local pathways to employment for indigenous peoples: in local government, local health organisations, local businesses. The the Algabonyah Community Cabinet is supporting the work of the Rumbalara Football and Netball Club to continue its trajectory – 20 years ago 80% of the players were unemployed, compared with 20% today. Mr Parkinson affirmed this is a remarkable achievement due the local leadership team.



The Dungala Kaiela Oration is hosted by the Kaiela Institute, which is a community investment organisation formed in 2011 by local leaders to provide an evidence-based holistic approach to step change improvements in the key areas of education, employment and inclusion for Indigenous people in the Goulburn Murray region.

Dungala Kaiela – Defining Goulburn Murray




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