Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten
Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten

Parties unveil plans to boost indigenous jobs

PLANS to ramp up job and business opportunities for indigenous Australians have been unveiled by the Coalition and Labor on the federal election campaign trail.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a $115 million plan yesterday to build the indigenous business sector, and Labor pledged to double the number of indigenous rangers.

The Coalition's package includes a $90 million fund for indigenous entrepreneurs, providing grants to businesses for infrastructure as well as funding to help them access programs and link them with finance.

Under the Coalition plan the government would require companies to buy more goods and services from indigenous businesses.

It would also ensure 3% of all government contracts were with indigenous businesses by 2020. The 3% is a match for the Aboriginal make-up of the population.

"Indigenous economic development is at the heart of our national agenda and plays a critical role in achieving improvements in social outcomes for indigenous Australians," Mr Turnbull said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced $200 million to expand the Working on Country program, which employs 775 indigenous people nationally.

Labor plans to increase that to 1550 by 2020-21.

"What we're doing is not just caring for the environmental management of the land, we're improving the chances in the future for the custodians of the land," Mr Shorten said.

Associate Professor Jon Willis, from the University of Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, said securing more employment for indigenous people was vital.

"Both areas (of policy announcements) need some attention and it would be great if both of them (the Coalition and Labor) adopted each other's policies as well as their own," he said.

Prof Willis said more needed to be done to address indigenous youth unemployment through training and higher education opportunities.

"Education and employment are two of the gaps we're trying to close," he said.

"I salute both parties for having good policies, but we need a lot more than that."

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