Inaugural Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Conference Pledges Full Support For Uluru Statement From The Heart

The newly-formed Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union has held its inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander conference in Far North Queensland, where delegates pledged their full support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

More than 60 rank and file Indigenous members from a diverse range of industries — including building sites, mines, the waterfront, seafaring, manufacturing and forestry — came together in Cairns.

The inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Conference resolved that the union would campaign politically and within the community in support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, in particular for the creation of a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice and a Makarrata Commission to implement the process of truth telling and treaty.

Conference coordinator and MUA Northern Territory Branch Secretary Thomas Mayor, who has in recent times been a full time advocate to convince Australians to support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, said the newly merged union was determined to build on its strong history of supporting First Nations people.

“This conference was about bringing together our Indigenous brothers and sisters, hearing first-hand their experiences at work and in their communities, and taking that knowledge to build a national campaign that can lead to genuine reconciliation,” Mr Mayor said.

“By bringing together rank and file union members who know the issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their workplaces, industries, and communities, we were able to develop a strong set of policies and clear campaign outcomes to ensure our union supports the fight of Indigenous Australians, in particular for a constitutionally-enshrined voice for First Nations.

“The Uluru Statement from the Heart is not only a compelling and powerful expression of the desires of First Nations people in this country, but just as importantly it outlines achievable outcomes, including a constitutionally-enshrined voice to Parliament and the creation of a Makarrata Commission to carry out the process of truth telling and treaty.

The conference also resulted in the formation of First Nations Peoples Committees, which will:

  • drive campaigning efforts and the development and implementation of Indigenous policy across the union;

  • promote and enforce strong workplace rights, while addressing exploitation of Indigenous workers;

  • support employment, training and culturally-appropriate mentoring;

  • engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and workers to build effective networks

    and support;

  • work towards empowering First Nations people to affect decisions about their own lives;

  • raise awareness with non-Indigenous members of the issues and challenges facing First Nations peoples,

    through an understanding of culture, history and respect; and

  • address racism and discrimination.

Change The Rules
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus addressed the conference on Wednesday and launched the Change the Rules campaign in the region.

McManus’ visit came as issues polling conducted by ReachTel and the ACTU shows broad support for changes that will deliver more secure jobs and fair pay rises for working Australians.

The polling shows more than 70% support for changes to the law to expand the scope of bargaining, expand access to industrial action as a last resort and stop wage theft and casualisation.

The polling of the Federal Division of Leichhardt, covering the area from Cairns to Torres Strait, shows: 

  • 62.3% support expanding bargaining to industry or sector levels
  • 58.4% support making it easier to take industrial action as a last resort
  • 70.6% want legislative action to stop wage theft
  • 57.7% support action to reduce casualisation

“People across Far North Queensland are telling us what workers across Australia have been telling us. The rules are broken and something needs to change,” McManus said.

 “These people are telling the Turnbull Government that working people need stronger rights, that protections for working people have been eroded and that we are not getting the secure jobs and fair pay rises that we need.

 “We can change the rules so the people have more secure jobs, fair pay and a better quality of life in Far North Queensland.

 “Instead of addressing the concerns of the overwhelming majority of the community, the Turnbull Government is persisting with $65 billion in corporate tax cuts for big businesses and the banks.”

Following McManus’ presentation, Mayor said: “We’re Indigenous workers here, from all over the country. As workers we are fully on board in the campaign to Change the Rules. 
"We also have a struggle as Indigenous people who are discriminated against every day. We’ve had a great conference, we’ve workshopped our issues as Indigenous workers, and we’ve identified solutions. 
 
"We not only need to change the rules as workers, we also need to change the rules for First Nations people as well. 
 
"That is why our union will strongly support the changes called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart."
New report says Turnbull Government’s remote work-for-the-dole program failing on every measure
 
More than 90 members of the new union protested against the Turnbull Governments controversial work for the dole program known as the Community Development Program (CDP).
 
Mayor said the protest was against the CDP’s low wages for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
 
“CDP is a program that discriminates against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” he said.
“It is targeted at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The program detrimentally affects our people in that it is less money than the dole.
 
“There are very harsh penalties, you can’t even be sick. There are many examples where it has hurt families.

A new report from the Australia Institute has found that the Turnbull Government’s remote work-for-the-dole program is racially discriminatory, incredibly punitive, ineffective and expensive compared to metropolitan work-for-the-dole programs.

The Community Development Program forces participants to work 25 hours per week for no pay, with no OHS protections, no workers compensation and no workplace rights or minimum standards.

The report has found that:

  • Last year the scheme generated 2682 part and full time placements over 26 weeks, but cost $360 million to operate, money which could employ almost 20,000 people for 6 months, full time.
  • Fewer than 10% of CDP workers are supported into a job that they stay in for 6 months each year, and on average a CDP worker would have to stay in the system for 12.7 years to achieve a 26 week placement.
  • For every dollar of actual support a CDP worker receives through the program, 70 cents is spent on administration, making the program incredibly expensive compared to other WFTD schemes
  • CDP workers are 25 times more likely than non-CDP workers to receive a financial penalty through the welfare system and 55 times more likely to receive a serious penalty. CDP workers make up a majority of total penalties and serious penalties nationally despite being less than 10% of the total work-for-the-dole workforce. 
  • CDP covers 31,000 of the most economically disadvantaged people in Australia, with average incomes in areas where CDP is in effect drastically lower than the national average.

“The only people who benefit from the CDP are the companies which the Turnbull Government pays to run it. Minister Scullion is monetising racial discrimination,” ACTU National Campaign Coordinator Kara Keys said.

“This program is expensive, ineffective and brutal in its treatment of its participants. It is inflicting economic and emotional trauma on remote Indigenous communities.

“CDP is causing people to go hungry, costs more than any comparable program and does not achieve its stated goals. The creation and pig-headed defence of this disastrous policy by the Turnbull Government has done lasting damage to countless remote communities who have been robbed of their autonomy.

“This program needs to be scrapped, and replaced with a model which puts economic autonomy in the hands of Indigenous people. The CDP’s paternalistic approach has clearly failed and is causing serious harm.”