A new program to increase the number of Indigenous Australians securing sustainable employment after prison has been launched by Generation One today in Perth.
The Ebenezer Aboriginal Corporation Vocation Training and Employment Centre (EAC VTEC) will provide Indigenous jobseekers at the Acacia Prison in Western Australia with job-specific training, a guaranteed position at the end and ongoing personal support to stay employed.
Generation One chairman Andrew Forrest AO and Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion launched the initiative today alongside representatives from program operator Ebenezer Aboriginal Corporation and prison operator Serco. The Federal Government has invested $872,000 in the program.
“The VTEC program is changing lives across Australia but something we continue to hear from people with prison records is that they struggle to secure and sustain fulfilling employment,” Mr Forrest said.
“Applying the innovative VTEC model at Acacia will help many of the men there walk out of prison and into a job, and our mission is to support them to stay employed.
“The over-imprisonment and high re-offending rates for Indigenous Australians are persistent barriers to employment. Further, the disparity between the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in prison remains inexcusably wide.
“It is a critical national issue for us all and we must work to close the gap.”
Generation One is an initiative of the Minderoo Foundation established to end the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in one generation through employment and education.
Through the VTEC employment model, over 9,000 Indigenous Australians have been supported into work, with strong retention rates. The model utilises a demand-led approach to provide guaranteed jobs for Indigenous people, while holding service providers accountable through outcome-based payments.
The EAC VTEC program will take this proven model to Acacia to pilot its use in a prison setting with a view to reducing re-offending rates.
Indigenous adults account for 27% of prisoners nationally, despite making up about 2% of the total adult population. Indigenous imprisonment rates increased 41% between 2006 and 2016, and the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous imprisonment rates widened over that decade.
The percentage of prisoners with a prior record of imprisonment is high: 76% of Indigenous prisoners and 49% of non-Indigenous prisoners.
“This pilot program at Acacia represents the start of what we believe is an important, national employment program,” Generation One chief executive Dr Tim McDonald said.
“We hope to expand the EAC VTEC program across the country and potentially into juvenile detention, so we can curb the pipeline from youth to adult prisons for Indigenous Australians.”
The new EAC VTEC program has two key phases – pre-release and post-release.
While in prison, job seekers will receive personal and pre-employment support before examining possible opportunities. The selection of candidates by employers will be conducted in prison, to allow job seekers to equip themselves with the necessary motivation, skills and experience to meet a role’s specific requirements.
The EAC VTEC program is the only demand-led employment model which provides a guaranteed job and wholistic services to prisoner job seekers.
These services, to be provided by Ebenezer, range from strategies developed in prison to overcome any barriers to employment, to assistance returning home, transitioning into the job, and developing a career plan.
Minister Scullion welcomed today’s announcement and congratulated Generation One, Ebenezer Aboriginal Corporation and Serco on this innovative partnership to deliver this new VTEC.
“I have absolutely no doubt that this VTEC will be an important element in breaking the cycle of recidivism and re-offending that unfortunately too many of our First Australians experience when they don’t get the support they need.
“Generation One and Andrew Forrest in particular deserve to be acknowledged for their steadfast commitment to ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians get quality training that leads to a real job.
“The VTEC model championed by Andrew has been a huge success, and with more than 5000 people now having achieved a 26-week employment outcome, the programme has been truly transformational to the lives of so many First Australians,” Minister Scullion said today.