HARD DECISION: Aboriginal Employment Strategy considers closing its doors

IF FEDERAL government funding is not guaranteed to the Aboriginal Employment Strategy (AES) by December 3, their chairman believes the hard decision of closing the organisation would be made.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), which funds the organisation, stated discussions with the AES would continue until the current contract expires on July 31, 2013.

There are 15 AES offices, including one in Dubbo, with 90 employees that find hundreds of training and job opportunities for Indigenous people in Australia.

There are currently 600 registered job seekers gaining help to find employment from the Dubbo AES office and 10 students currently engaged in school-based traineeships in the district.

AES chairman Dick Estens said the government's refusal to guarantee funding demonstrated they did not understand the disadvantage in areas the organisation covered.

"It clearly sends the message that they don't care about Aboriginal people," he said.

A DEEWR spokeswoman said the AES had eight current contracts worth more than $29 million.

"All contracts have a start and end date and any new contracts have to meet the guidelines and criteria of the Indigenous Employment Program," she said.

"Discussions on these contracts will continue prior to the contract expiry, as is the usual course."

Mr Estens said the AES would prove an expensive organisation to close down if funding was not secured, estimating it would cost in excess of $1 million to shut the doors of the offices with more than 400 people on the pay roll.

Mr Estens said all staff and Indigenous people currently engaged in the organisation's programs could do was wait for funding.

"The problem is we are not sure what is happening," he said. "We will be forced, unless we get certainty, to start shutting the offices down."


Dubbo AES office staff Mark Merritt and Lateisha Peachey.		                Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

Dubbo AES office staff Mark Merritt and Lateisha Peachey. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE