Wednesday, 2 July marked a very special moment for the team at GenerationOne.
This was not just the launch of Yarn’n as Sydney’s newest Vocational Training and Employment Centre (VTEC), this was the announcement of 22 VTEC sites across Australia. We now have more than 4,000 jobs committed to Indigenous Australians with training to take place at these sites.
Three years ago, I joined GenerationOne as a spokesperson at a time when the campaign was in full swing. GenerationOne and the Australian Employment Covenant (AEC) were still operating very separately. GenerationOne was the advocate for change while the AEC was the generating Indigenous job commitments from businesses across the nation.
I often found myself speaking about VTEC, a demand led model that connected training to employment, while supporting the most marginalised jobseekers find empowerment and independence. VTEC, as we knew it back then, was the model created by FMG in the Plibara. While there were other examples in operating around the country it was Fortescue’s model that was driving our design of best practice.
Since its inception, GenerationOne has been tirelessly lobbying the Government to adopt a training and employment model that is driven by employer demand. A research document, ‘Walk in My Shoes’ highlighted a disconnect between jobseekers that were desperate for employment and employers looking to create or expand their Indigenous workforce.
There have been countless stories of heartbreak from across the country where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People have found themselves stuck on the ‘merry-go-round’ of ‘training for training sake’. Every time that merry-go-round turned, it broke the hope of our mob and drove home the hopelessness.
In September 2013 GenerationOne received words of change. A pre-election commitment of $45Million to train up to 5,000 jobseekers into employment using the GenerationOne model was made. Over the last 9 months, our small but dedicated team has been working with the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet to bring this model to life.
On 2 July 2014, Minsiter for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion announced that all 22 VTEC sites across the country were open for business. In that moment VTEC became more than just the rhetorical talking point that we had been repeating for 3 years. It moved from the dreaming into reality. From Melbourne to Myuma and Mackay to Mirrabooka, VTECs will change the face of Indigenous training and employment.
Standing in front of close to 100 guests at Redfern Town Hall, I held onto the lectern and outlined our commitment to change. Admittedly, I was overcome by the emotions of hope and change in seeing how far we had come.
My eyes pooled with pride. The words of some of the great elders that have taken time to sit with me echoed in my thoughts, ‘Things will only change, when people remember to listen’.