With a vision to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, GenerationOne is at the forefront of ambitious initiatives to secure prosperous futures for the country’s first peoples.
The aim of GenerationOne and the Minderoo Foundation
Committed to improving the plight of Aboriginal people, GenerationOne works to end the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Empowering communities through vocational and job-specific training, the organisation has placed thousands of Aboriginal people into jobs. The goal is to end cycles of unemployment and repeat incarceration among Indigenous Australians.
GenerationOne is fully funded by the Minderoo Foundation, which supports more than 250 initiatives in Australia and abroad, from education and Indigenous affairs to cancer research. For Dr Tim McDonald, joining the organisation as CEO in February was a no-brainer considering his background in education and his work with disengaged youth.
“The attraction was to join and lead a group to make a difference to Aboriginal disparity in Australia,” he says. “It’s an organisation that is not afraid to challenge the status quo, and which has a track record of implementing some really good policy changes around Aboriginal employment.”
Providing VTEC for Aboriginal Australians
During its 10 years in operation, GenerationOne has set up a demand-led employment approach through the Vocational Training and Employment Centres (VTEC) model, which has been adopted by the Australian Government and has facilitated the long-term employment of more than 6500 Indigenous Australians.
“GenOne works with a lot of Aboriginal people who have been unemployed for a number of years and who’ve found employment difficult,” McDonald explains. “The Employment Covenant has created thousands of opportunities for Indigenous Australians to get into employment. That has been the greatest achievement for GenOne: to identify that gaining employment is key to ending disparity and giving people a sense of worth and a sense of purpose, not only for them but for their family and community, too.”
Job training and support to Aboriginal inmates
Working across Australia, GenerationOne has formed partnerships with organisations and companies dedicated to achieving parity and providing opportunities for Aboriginals.
“Employers have been phenomenal. Some of the great work GenOne has done is to form relationships with employers and maintain strong relationships over many years,” says McDonald.
As a result of these relationships, there is a trial underway in Western Australia that uses the VTEC model to prepare Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners for employment beyond bars. In a first of its kind, the initiative provides vocational training and mentoring for inmates in their last six months before release to guarantee them a job. Beyond work, GenerationOne looks into accommodation and housing, and works closely with the individuals and their families to address any at-risk factors on the outside.
Eventually, the foundation hopes to roll out the initiative in prisons and juvenile detention centres across Australia. “It’s a great initiative that we know will break the cycle of Aboriginal people leaving prison and then returning to prison,” says McDonald.
And for anyone convinced that a disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians doesn’t exist, McDonald is quick to point out the evidence. “We know this through the ‘Closing the Gap’ report, through employment opportunities, through education, through life longevity and through Aboriginal health.”
GenerationOne seeks to improve the allocation of government funding
While the Federal Government forks out $33.4 billion annually on Indigenous affairs across Australia, GenerationOne believes its spending needs to be re-evaluated so as to provide a measurable impact. “We need to work with the government to ensure it adopts a different process for how money is allocated to Aboriginal communities,” says McDonald. “It must be linked to community needs, with clear outcomes, transparency and accountability, for these resources have an impact in changing the lives of Aboriginal people.”
With a view to ending welfare dependence, GenerationOne is currently trialling the way individuals receive payments. Instead of money, welfare payments are converted to a debit card that limits all cash withdrawals to 20 per cent of the available funds. “This restricts the amount of cash available to be spent on destructive measures in vulnerable communities. It’s a strategy which ensures money goes towards paying rent, bills and food for children in the family,” McDonald explains. Underway for three years now in communities across Western Australia and South Australia, it’s an initiative the organisation hopes to roll out across the country, if they can get the government on board.
When asked what drove him to become involved with GenerationOne, McDonald responds with the kind of passion that incites action. “I’ve had wonderful learning and great experiences with Aboriginal people. It’s an incredible culture. We know that Australia can benefit so much when all of our people are living lives where they can thrive, flourish and contribute to society. At the moment, there’s a section of the community that haven’t got that opportunity – and we need to enable that.”