The release of the 2016 Closing the Gap report into the circumstances of Indigenous Australians has presented a mixed outcome in how successfully key targets are being met. These targets focus on health, education and employment; recognised as essential drivers in addressing the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. While progress is being made across the board in the areas of health and education, addressing disparities in Indigenous employment is one target that stands out as falling below the benchmark, and has in fact declined in recent years.
However, here in the south-east of Tasmania, an Indigenous training and employment organisation has been going from strength to strength in the face of socio-economic challenges and pressures. pakana services is a not-for-profit, social enterprise developed to provide work and training for Aboriginal people in natural resource management, agriculture and other industry sectors. It is also a stand-out example of a program that with a minimum of funding, has been changing peoples’ lives for the better and creating much needed opportunities and career pathways for members of the Aboriginal community.
Through the efforts of a core group of people who were committed to getting tangible outcomes for the Aboriginal community, and with funding support from NRM South, pakana services was launched in 2012. This was combined with knowledge, expertise, investment and learnings from other initiatives in Tasmania and around the country to establish a business development project. The primary focus of pakana services is on-ground land management activities such as brush cutting, weed control, spraying, fencing, tree planting, track construction and maintenance, protection of Aboriginal cultural sites and property maintenance. The enterprise derives income from trade, and all profits are reinvested into the business. pakana services has been incorporated, has a Board and is now a registered business with a website.
pakana services currently has one full time manager and five casual Aboriginal employees on the books, many of whom were previously long-term unemployed. Since its inception pakana services has employed eight personnel, seven of whom have gone on to gain employment with other organisations. pakana employees gain accreditation in technical skills such chainsaw operation, brush cutting, Chemcert, white card, weed control and plant identification. A competitive business providing high quality service, there is growing support for the program from all sectors.