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Supporting Indigenous Closing the Gap — Employment Services package

Time to Work Employment Service

The Time to Work Employment Service (TWES) which commenced on 1 January 2018, is an in-prison employment service targeted at Indigenous Australians. It provides eligible prisoners who volunteer for the service with assistance while they are incarcerated, and helps them prepare for employment post release.

Key features include a comprehensive employment assessment, assistance to develop a transition plan, and facilitated transfer to an employment services provider. TWES operates separately from other employment services. However, TWES providers will work with a participant’s post-release employment services provider to facilitate a connected transfer.

TWES is delivered by 13 specialist providers to 70 non-remote prisons nationally. In 2018–19, 885 eligible prisoners commenced in the service. A total of 77 completed the service with an approved transition plan, an additional 689 participants were on the active caseload, and the remaining participants exited the service for a variety of reasons before completion. Exit reasons include:

  • no longer being eligible for the service (because they were denied parole)
  • choosing to no longer participate, as the service is voluntary
  • being transferred to another prison.
  • early release participant from prison. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (now titled National Indigenous Affairs Agency) is responsible for delivering services in 10 remote prisons.

Servicing vulnerable groups

The department worked collaboratively with other agencies and across the community to improve servicing arrangements for vulnerable groups — including Indigenous Australians, ex-offenders, refugees and other migrants — and to achieve better employment outcomes.

The department supported the development of a number of place-based projects focused on employment of vulnerable groups, including through the Regional Employment Trials program. This included six projects focusing on refugees and migrants in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales (see the case study for Armidale, NSW, below), as well as the Indigenous-focused Yarrabah Employment Services Pilot.

Yarrabah Employment Services Pilot

The department established the Yarrabah Employment Services Pilot in Far North Queensland in July 2018 to deliver a place-based approach to employment services in Yarrabah.

The department worked with the Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council to co-design and build a model for the delivery of employment services in Yarrabah. The co-design process included face-to-face meetings with Yarrabah representatives. The department then worked with the council to plan and implement the transfer of employment services to Yarrabah.

The objective of the new employment services model is to respond to the needs of the Yarrabah Indigenous community by building its capacity to deliver community-driven employment services that provide better outcomes for Yarrabah and its people.

The new employment service provider, Wugu Nyambil Limited (‘Holding onto work‘), opened its doors to Yarrabah job seekers on 2 July 2018. The service receives mentoring and leadership assistance from an existing jobactive provider, My Pathway. The staff of Wugu Nyambil, being Yarrabah residents or having a close connection to the community, know the challenges faced by the community and local job seekers.

Key elements of their approach are flexibility and engagement with local stakeholders. The focus is on delivering a tailored service to build people’s capacity, skills and confidence, and delivering services that are better aligned to the community’s social and economic priorities.

The Yarrabah pilot has supported 912 Indigenous job seekers and achieved 105 job placements in the first 12 months of service. The department will continue to support and evaluate the success of the pilot as part of our support for improving Indigenous employment outcomes and continuing progress towards closing the gap.

ParentsNext research

The department is committed to developing the cultural capability of our providers and delivering the best services possible to Indigenous participants in our programs.

In 2018–19, the department engaged an Indigenous organisation to work with us, our ParentsNext providers and Indigenous ParentsNext participants, to better understand the unique challenges faced by Indigenous parents in ParentsNext and identify best practice approaches to supporting Indigenous parents. From this, a range of products were developed to help ParentsNext providers deliver culturally appropriate services to Indigenous participants. These include a self-assessment and reflection tool, podcasts and tailored communication materials.

Helping newly arrived refugees in Armidale, NSW

The department has supported a number of place-based projects focused on employment of refugees and other migrants, including through the Regional Employment Trials (RET) program. RET has helped establish the Refugee and Migrant Employment Pilot (Tomato Exchange) in Armidale and Guyra in western New South Wales.

This custom-built project recruits local refugees and migrants into employment with the Costa Group at the Guyra site in the tomatoes division. Target participants are permanent residents already settled in the region. The project focuses on an alternative recruitment pathway model, aligned to business needs, in a way that challenges conventional approaches to recruitment. It identifies job seekers who have the right attitudes, values and attributes but are facing long-term unemployment due to lack of Australian work experience and job readiness. Activities include customised pre‑employment training, work experience, mentoring and coaching and employer support.

The project is based on a firm commitment by the Costa Group to allocate genuine jobs in areas of their workforce where the supply of workers does not currently meet demand. Costa’s commitment to invest in local job seekers through this intensive model is critical for meeting their workforce challenges over the next 12 to 18 month period.

This project has attracted much interest nationally, from communities and businesses alike. It has already resulted in a number of refugees securing work after only 12 months in Australia and while still learning English.