OVER the last two years the Hunter, along with other NSW mining communities, has borne the brunt of rising unemployment.
Over this period there have been about 5000 jobs lost in the NSW mining sector, with about 3000 of these in the Hunter Valley.
Unemployment is usually higher among Aboriginal Australians and, with an industry downturn, opportunities for Aboriginal people in the minerals sector can be tough to find.
And it’s not just opportunities in the mines themselves that can be hard to come by during downturns, but also in local businesses that support mining.
Despite these uncertain times, things could be about to change, and 2015 could be the year that NSW turns the corner and gets back on track, which could be good news for jobs.
Coal production is increasing and demand for NSW coal is growing among our traditional trade partners.
There are also signs of improvement in commodity prices.
A number of important mining projects have been approved or commenced operation, securing hundreds of jobs for communities in regional communities.
That’s why it’s important that the industry is ready with strategies to provide opportunities for Aboriginal people when mining starts to recover.
Our industry is a leader in providing meaningful work outcomes for Aboriginal Australians. Companies like Whitehaven Coal have set and in some cases exceeded targets for Aboriginal employment, and most operations have constructive relationships with their local Aboriginal communities.
In June 2013, the NSW Minerals Council entered into a formal agreement with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Minister for Resources to work together to deliver Aboriginal employment and enterprise development outcomes across the NSW minerals sector.
The NSW Minerals Council has been working with our members to identify other opportunities to assist Aboriginal people to enter the mining workforce, and to provide opportunities for Aboriginal business to win contracts within the mining supply chain.
We will be promoting the recently released NSW Aboriginal Business Portal – an initiative of the NSW government and the NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce – which provides a way to access a wide range of Indigenous suppliers servicing diverse fields who have been quality assured by the Chamber.
Improving education, work and health for Indigenous Australians is one of our great national challenges. Our industry is well placed for this, and helping people into meaningful work is the best way to tackle social disadvantage.
Stephen Galilee is the CEO of the NSW Minerals Council