Racism hits Koori students’ work hopes

© The Age

DAVID ROOD, Higher Education Reporter
September 19, 2005

Racism remains the biggest barrier to employment for Kooris who have completed vocational education.

Research has found that “systemic barriers” may be preventing indigenous students from obtaining qualifications and jobs, with the proportion of Koori TAFE graduates finding work below the graduate average.

“Koori people are willing to learn and work,” one female student said. “When employers find out you’re Aboriginal, some of them have a different issue where they won’t take you.”

The Melbourne University report — Koorie experience of qualifications pathways in VET: Obstacles or opportunities? — argues TAFE is crucial in Kooris finding work, but better recognition of their skills is needed.

It identified three critical transition periods for Koori students: re-engagement in education, transition to mainstream programs and finding work.

It recommended strengthening Koori units in TAFEs, which provide important academic and personal support in the transition to vocational education. “Students perceived Koori units as understanding of their personal difficulties and cultural obligations and reported increased academic confidence, self-esteem and social skills.”

However, it argued there was a tendency in mainstream TAFEs to delegate indigenous issues to the units rather than taking a joint approach to student needs.

It also found perceptions of racism in mainstream TAFE were common, as well as “a small number of overt racist remarks”.

More than 120 students from 11 metropolitan and regional TAFEs took part in the research.

Victorian Aboriginal Education Association general manager Lionel Bamblett said the report highlighted the need for a larger investment in Koori TAFE.

“There is a labour pool just sitting there waiting for local industry and commerce to actually knock on the door,” he said.